Launched in February 2004, Facebook is a social networking service founded by Mark Zuckerberg with his college roommates and fellow students Eduardo Saverin, Andrew McCollum, Dustin Moskovitz and Chris Hughes. Early investors include Microsoft and Hong Kong tycoon Li Ka- shing, through his namesake charitable foundation. Facebook’s US$16 billion initial public offering in May 2012 generated huge investor interest although the shares subsequently slumped in price.
I ice my knees down more often than I brush my teeth. My back behaves like physical torture is its eminent domain. My hairdresser has been on unemployment insurance seemingly forever and the crusty curmudgeon I have been sneering at for years now shows up in my mirror on a daily basis. Despite all that, what really makes me feel incurably old is my job.
'You write for a newspaper man, they have to kill trees for people to read you.' It's a familiar refrain uttered incessantly from adolescents in the techno-vanguard. I've heard it before, in fact I heard it just last week at the UBS Hong Kong Open. I was having a cooling libation with an older gent who has been around golf longer than the Old Course at St Andrews. He wanted to follow up on something I wrote and was laughing at the surprise on my face. 'What's the matter?' he asked. 'I'm old school, of course I read newspapers.'
Of course, my heart sunk for a moment at the thought that newspapers are old school. But they are and by extension so am I. 'Look,' he continued, 'there's no shame in being old school. If the only thing kids today remember about our generation is that we invented Viagra, it can't be a bad thing, right?'
No, sounds like a hard truth to me, I replied, and the whole exchange elicited a giggle from a younger media guy who is strictly an online contributor, hence his tree-killing line to me. 'Trees eventually grow back,' I said. 'But the cow they killed to make your belt and shoes is gone forever, so let's not be so harsh on us ink-stained wretches and our carbon footprint.'
Well, how about you? You all up to snuff on Facebook and Twitter? You feel the need to let the world know every time you go to the bathroom? Me, I'm OK being in the dark on some things. But others feel compelled to share. Northern Irish golfers Graeme McDowell and Rory McIlroy are both avid tweeters and told me it brings them closer to fans and humanises them a bit more. Both seem like stellar young men so I tend to believe they are sincere.
And while this might sound absolutely feudal to some of you, I had yet to indulge in the new media on Twitter so I visited both of their sites and was impressed. I was also impressed to find out the world of sports and those who play the games are a rich resource in Twitterville. Last week's Hong Kong Open champ Ian Poulter has more than one million followers, while Boston Celtics centre Shaquille O'Neal has well over three million subscribers. I mean, are there really three million people out there who desperately need to know that 'Bj Penn just bugarhooked Matt Hughes, dam I love ufc. Wow.'
I don't get it but then again, I'm old school. Most of the athletes I grew up watching didn't want fans to know what they were up to in their down time. A secret was a secret and there was no shortage of those. But the genie is out of the bottle now. Nothing you do is insignificant. Everything you do is newsworthy. The dominance of the Baby Boomer demographic is over and no amount of Viagra is going to change that fact. Prolong it, yes. Change it, no.
I've got to get with the new media, especially with it being so relevant in the world of sports these days. It's all about instant gratification; insight and analysis are passe and boring. Well, I'm cool with all that. I can serve up the first thing that comes into my mind, I just need to know how and I figured there was no better learning tool than going to see The Social Network, the movie about the founders of Facebook.
Absolutely stellar flick, had a script tighter than a Korean drum even if the writer, Aaron Sorkin, did take a few liberties. It's Hollywood, after all. Try as I might though, I could not help feeling like a complete alien from virtually everyone in the movie and well I should. My experience with social networking is limited at best. But one line in the movie was particularly poignant. After being dumped by his girlfriend, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg posted some truly nasty stuff about her on his blog and tried to make up a month later. She would have none of it. 'You write your snide bull*&%t from a dark room,' she said, 'because that's what the angry do nowadays.'
Basketball star LeBron James posted a picture and tweeted about going to dinner with his family and it was followed by this reply: 'Sure hope you've learned to tip now.' That was actually the nicest reply. It got flat out nasty and of course James' controversial changing of teams this summer has everything to do with that. Still, there is so much hate out there in the new media.
We work in the light around here in the old media. Facts actually have to be verified before being posted. Things can still get distorted and I can't make a case for this being the noblest profession in the world. But not every tree fell in vain. Old school, new school, there's room for both. I can't tell you what kind of shoes Shaquille O'Neal wore today but I'm not here to fight the future, merely to acknowledge it.
And if you are reading this column in the newspaper over a coffee or breakfast, maybe sitting on the toilet or lying in bed, wherever, whatever, I just want to say thanks. Thank you for being a throwback. All we do around here, we do for you.