Urban Fathers' Liberation Front

Confused dads working out the city

Sometimes, likes don’t help

I’m a regular user of Facebook – I’m in it every day.  I enjoy reading up on old school friends that I’d otherwise have no contact with.  I enjoy reading about people I really care about and keeping up with them even when I’m a long way from them, and I like being able to share my things with family and friends really easily.  It’s fun to have a FB business page because I do get to interact with actual customers who I’ve met and who do genuinely like what I do.   Crikey, I even promote my random rants on it.

But it’s an uneasy relationship because at its core, it’s really shallow.  Nothing is easier than writing a quick remark, ticking a box, clicking a link and saying hello and  – because nothing is easier – I wonder about the sincerity of it.  And, as a user, I fall into that trap all the time.

I do take some comfort in the fact that I can acknowledge that and fight against it to some extent.  But lots of people don’t seem to.  Every day, someone caught in my Facebook universe will post or share some inane picture that promises happiness if I ‘share’ it, or looks to garner support for some charity or cause if I ‘like’ it.  I try to resist this because I can’t really see the point of liking a campaign or a product (I still regret ‘liking’ Ronseal; ever since being peppered with updates about creosote) or sharing a picture just because I know someone with, say, cancer.  What does anyone gain from a ‘like’ or a ‘share’ like this?

As you may well know, I’ve been trying for a couple of years to get a greetings card business off the ground using my own photos.  On the whole, I’ve felt that it’s had some successes, but it’s not enough to stop working somewhere else.  Through word of mouth, local business has been good, and I really appreciate those who come to my business FB page and give me support and help and advice and encouragement (and I get quite a lot).  But my experience is that Facebook adverts get you likes, but not sales.  One day I had a FB message from some woman in America I’d never heard of before who ‘liked’ my page.  She asked me to ‘like’ hers.  I didn’t like her product, it had nothing to do with my product, I didn’t know her and didn’t know what she stood for, so I told her that I wouldn’t ‘like’ her page and I didn’t need hers.  It was, perhaps, a bit rude, but it was honest.  How on earth would I benefit from her ‘like’, and how would she benefit from mine?  She was surprised by my attitude, so for her it was just about numbers and looking popular.  I can’t see the point of this superficiality.

It hit home again today as I flicked through The Independent newspaper.  I came across an advert for Crisis Relief Singapore that encapsulates how I feel about it.  You can read about it here.  It doesn’t need any explanation.

This evening, dipping into my news feed, I had a cute photo of a raccoon – like me, like me!  It was an ad from the Anti-Fur Campaign – of which country, it wasn’t clear.  They’d achieved 115,000 likes and were looking for 1 million.  Did I ‘like’ it?  No..what is the point?

What I did do was find out more about the charity promoting it – they’re based in Greensboro NC – and they oppose the wearing of fur and leather.  They’re especially interested in the fur trade in China.  You can actually become a member of their cause if you like, or buy stuff in their shop.  If you really want to care, you could stop wearing fur, or leather shoes (or jackets, or skirts…).  But I suspect most people just ‘like’ it and move on.

Sometimes, likes don’t help. If you care about something, put your hand in your pocket or go out and help, rather than clicking a mouse at your desk. I suspect whoever is asking for your ‘like’ would prefer your cash and your genuine interest.  That includes supporting brilliant greeting card designers, by the way (so why not buy and send a birthday card, and not just comment on a FB wall when you’re prompted…).

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Candy Crushed

I have one of the old Nintendo DS consoles, the hand held ones that predate the 3DS model.  I’ve only ever really played two games on it – FIFA08 and FIFA11.  I’d upgrade again if they still made it for the DS, but they don’t.  I know that I’ve been playing these two games for about seven years; I recall playing on a train back from Hull when I worked with CABE.  I enjoy it because I understand the principles of football, so only had to master the controls and it offers a mild challenge in little chunks of four or five minutes.  I had two or three games tonight whilst I watched the kids go the sleep.  I don’t think I’m ever going to get bored of playing it.

I feel the same about Candy Crush Saga, the maddeningly addictive game that thousands of commuters in London seem to be playing during every trip they make.  For the uninitiated – catch up, grandad – it involves moving little coloured sweets into lines to achieve an objective like delivering ingredients, getting rid of jelly or achieving a score in a certain amount of moves.  Complete a game and you move to the next level, where a slightly different challenge awaits; play long enough and you start to experience new obstacles – like sweet bombs and the maddening chocolate and gather treats like the colour bomb and the lollipop hammer.

Like my Nintendo, there is an beautiful simplicity to Candy Crush, which clearly resonates with thousands of other people too.  It’s easy to play and it’s non-discrimatory.  You see progress.  Even when a level is hard to escape, there’s always the feeling that it can be conquered.  It’s just the perfect combination of skill, luck and judgement in short games with decent rewards; it’s easy to learn and it provides water cooler conversation.

Or so I thought.  In the wake of Stuart Heritage’s article in The Guardian earlier this week, and after what seems like an eternity trying to crack level 147 (which I eventually did), I now find myself – for the first time – fighting a level that I don’t think I can get past.  Level 149 is a devious combination of jelly, chocolate and the search for the most elusive sweet combination, the double wrapped.  Worse of all, it’s a level where you can see very early on if you’re not going to make it, but it makes you play on in pain and desperation.  Games can be over in this way very quickly.  I’ve been toiling all week without even getting close.  

And before, I was optimistic and I’d persevere.  I thought that there was some skill and judgement and it was worthwhile.  But now, it’s driving me crazy, I appreciate that – actually – it’s all about luck and the configuration of your opening board; it’s turning me off and I’ve realised that I’m not gaining any worthwhile skills and not benefiting from any of the enjoyment I thought I was getting before.  I’ve realised that rather than being all cerebral, with it and cool, arranging little sweets in every waking moment – and getting annoyed about it – is a little bit twattish.  

I think my time with Candy Crush is over.



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