"Everyone talks about Bebo, but nobody uses it," she says. I'm talking to a group who are using Facebook to promote gigs at their Young People's Centre. It's been incredibly successful. They made friends with local bands, promoters and music fans. They made friends with everyone in the Youth Club, on the local Town Youth Council and the local Youth Forum. Once they got enough friends in the age-group, they just started being suggested to the local young people as a suitable friend. And the young people laughed at the building pretending to be a person and notched up another friend-mark on their tally sheet.
At 400 friends, it's impossible to be sure who's on your friends list any more. Is it a risk? I take them through some of the risk points, ignoring the irony of teaching kids to use Facebook. Sometimes they need it, but not this lot. "Oh yeah, I was stalked," she says, with a lopsided smile, and launches into one of the standard stories. She snaps open a chat window as she talks; one of the bands wants info about an upcoming gig. She fires a question across the room, someone fires off a text, the information comes back and she responds. I'm looking at the text as she types. The language is formal, kind, elaborately polite, bracketed by smilies and see-you-latwer commonplaces. Subtext made explicit; I'm busy, but I still care.
Bebo, then, does anyone use it? "I think my little sister... used to," says one of the older young people. "She's got a Facebook now. She's only eleven." We launch into another discussion of online safety, terms of service and protecting yourself. They know the script, though; they're looking out for each other, they can take their concerns on to staff, family, friends.
Does anyone read blogs? "I have a friend who writes one, I think..." They look a bit bored. Someone's sent through a message. "We told them the stage times, didn't we?" she snaps, "They know this!" She types up a quick message. "Who is it?" asks one of the younger young people. She tells them. "He never remembers anything," he laughs, "Too much *phweep*." Her response, typed with machine-gun speed, is as unfailingly polite and concise as her chat.
Do you have any trouble with people being rude on the wall? No, no. Of course they don't.
So, Bye bye Bebo. We didn't get much more than a year's use out of it in the end, before everyone was flooding onto Facebook. And the blog can go, too -- fold it back into the general site news and the timeline. Twitter and Myspace can stay, for now, utilities filed next to Slideshare and Youtube. Glad I elected to use Livejournal for the blog, though! Downloading an archive copy was a piece of cake.