Face­book? Just chill out a bit

Canal Boat - - Me & My Boats - KEVIN BLICK From car jour­nal­ism to the canals was a change of pace, but liv­ing on board tug Harry is a con­stant eye-opener

How on earth did we go boat­ing be­fore Face­book? For that mat­ter, how did some peo­ple ever live their lives with­out Face­book to guide, ad­vise, com­fort or chas­tise them?

Don’t get me wrong; I’m as reg­u­lar a user of the so­cial me­dia gi­ant as any­one else. I post and com­ment with the best of them. Lately, though, I have done the daily scroll of my ‘news­feed’ with in­creas­ing feelings of amuse­ment, frus­tra­tion and plain old grumpy old git-style an­noy­ance.

In Face­book speak I would prob­a­bly be post­ing ‘FB gr­rrh!’ or ‘so fed up :-( and wait­ing for my ‘Friends’ (most of whom I have never, of course, met) to re­as­sure me that the world was still okay.

Any­way, back to my orig­i­nal point. How­ever did we man­age in the days when the net was some­thing used to land a fish? I started to count how many Face­book groups there are de­voted to nar­row­boat­ing and stopped when I reached 30. (I’m a mem­ber of six, be­fore you ask.)

Some are ex­tremely use­ful – like the 12v boat­ing group whose mem­bers of­fer sound, ex­pert ad­vice to the many of us who are elec­tri­cally il­lit­er­ate.

Oth­ers are more gen­eral chit-chat zones, which is great. Ex­cept that, in among the chat, the pic­tures, the sen­si­ble queries and the jolly tales are ques­tions that can be breath­tak­ingly naive (‘is it hard to get a boat from Spain to Eng­land?’) or that re­veal a sad lack of self-re­liance and sense of ad­ven­ture.

Does one re­ally need to ask for en­cour­age­ment and ‘tips’ be­fore set­ting off down the Ox­ford Canal or ven­tur­ing along the Mar­ket Har­bor­ough Arm? Come on; we are not talk­ing cross­ing the At­lantic.

Canal travel is not sim­ply about the des­ti­na­tion, it’s about the jour­ney. Your jour­ney, not the one some­one else has ad­vised you to have. We are sim­ply talk­ing about ex­plor­ing a lit­tle part of ru­ral Eng­land: if you don’t like it, don’t go there again.

In­evitably, Face­book canal groups do get a lot of ques­tions from peo­ple think­ing about buy­ing a boat. Some want views on specifics – toi­lets, so­lar, en­gines, that sort of stuff; some are idly dreaming about pos­si­bil­i­ties and the ques­tions posed of­ten so in­fu­ri­at­ingly vague. ‘What size boat is best?’ ‘Why are some sail­aways much more ex­pen­sive than oth­ers?’

Ask a ques­tion like that and you’ll get 100 dif­fer­ent an­swers. What I fear is that Face­book is slowly stran­gling the abil­ity of peo­ple to do their own re­search, seek out ex­pert ad­vice and form judg­ments – or raise ques­tions.

In­stead of ex­pert wis­dom, the nois­i­est opin­ions of Face­book­ers seems too of­ten to hold sway.

And dare any­one suggest that rather than ex­pect FB to sort them out, some­one should do their own re­search by read­ing, vis­it­ing boat­builders, even Googling, then they will, likely, get shot down in flames by out­raged Groupies. I’ve read it and it’s some­times shock­ing.

The nas­ti­ness di­rected at in­di­vid­u­als who step out of line in some Face­book boat­ing groups is hor­ri­ble. Ask your­self be­fore you join in: would you re­ally say this to their face down the pub?

Sadly, Face­book does seem to have be­come a li­cence to be nasty, to moan and grum­ble. There’s even a group called ‘Nar­row­boat Moan­ers and Ran­ters’ (which I’m in, in­ci­den­tally) for that ex­press pur­pose. For­tu­nately it doesn’t take it­self too se­ri­ously.

But some moan­ers and ran­ters do. They spend so much time grous­ing, I won­der whether they shouldn’t be think­ing about an al­ter­na­tive lifestyle.

Would I take the trou­ble to rage about a hire-boater moored for the night on a wa­ter point, or stop to pho­to­graph peo­ple who’ve set up a pic­nic table and chairs on the tow­path so I can post a Face­book rant about it?

I’m no saint; as Mrs B will tes­tify I reg­u­larly grump and grouse but, come on, be­fore you post your feelings to the world, just think: have you never made a mis­take; were you never a strug­gling new­bie or in a bit too much of a hurry?

And re­mem­ber, how­ever bad it seems to­day, it will prob­a­bly be bet­ter to­mor­row. And it sure beats work­ing. So have a beer and chill out.

Well that’s quite enough grum­bling and grous­ing from me. I’m sign­ing off from this col­umn now so, to para­phrase the words of the un­for­get­table Dave Allen, if you have been, thanks for read­ing.

‘How­ever bad it seems, it will prob­a­bly be bet­ter to­mor­row. And it sure beats work­ing. So have a beer and chill out’

Get a hand on the tiller to learn the ropes

Sage ad­vice, cheers

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