Do I keep getting contacted by people who claim to be my ‘friends’ yet most are as unknown to me as a humour chromosome is to an Immigration official? One of the biggest casualties of the internet has been the murder of the true definition of a favourite noun: Friend. The Oxford Dictionary definition: A person with whom one has a bond of mutual affection, typically one exclusive of sexual or family relations. Current definition: Anybody who is able to contact you. ‘Privacy’ would seem to be the digital reverse of ‘friendship’. “Internet friendship sites increase communication between people, ” I hear you cry. Bullsh*t. Friendship is two way; it requires time and continual interaction. These sites are in fact the ultimate expression of the self, the antithesis of communication. The data is nearly always one way. The sender does not care what you think, just that you read them. But he or she is quite happy to blindly impose on your time under the cover of somehow being a friend. I suppose a burglar is always grateful to those people saying they are on holiday or are walking around with an engagement ring. However if I have something really personal I want to enjoy with someone I’d pick up a phone, send an email or, heavens above, even write a letter. Apart from a persistent Jehovah’s Witness who rings my door bell and calls me friend, the digital rot all started with early sites like Friends Reunited. This let loose a bunch of people from the past, mainly old school contempories, who reached out of nowhere and dragged you back to the past. Suddenly I was being tracked down by people I vaguely remembered but had never kept up with…… for good reason. They were never my friends in the first place. I didn’t like them when half size so why would I want to be in contact with them in full adult form? As I went to an all-boys school, these ‘friends’ from the past did not even come with the veiled promise of some quick tryst to make up for what I missed all those years ago. (They say it’s the ones that got away that haunt you forever. I can understand why divorce rates shot up amongst those from mixed schools who were contacted). However at least this bunch could claim to have at one time known me. They were simply guilty of stretching the meaning of acquaintance into friend. Sadly that was just the beginning.

...and another thing

Next there came a far worse group; those I avidly wanted to avoid and I was the idiot that caused their appearance. Step forward, LinkedIn. Like so many people when I initially got contacted via LinkedIn and ‘friended’ someone, a pop up appeared. Not paying attention I inadvertently hit the accept button.

“Noooooooo” I cried out in vain as like some digital vacuum cleaner over 2,000 names and addresses from my contacts shot off into the ether and down the electronic maw of LinkedIn; who then kindly spat them out again to everybody now on file with a note from their new member on LinkedIn…Mark Grenside.

The first group to contact me asked if everything was all right. I quickly discovered that many people only send out LinkedIn messages when they are looking for a job. So now, my own industry of film and TV, believed I was broke, alone, and cast aside; a single sock in the business laundromat of life.

As with most contact lists, mine contained a healthy dollop of people who would not cross the street to pee in my ear if my brain was on fire. I found my LinkedIn contacted people I had sued, former business associates I had violently disagreed with, appallingly dumped girlfriends or even local government officials I had been harrying for planning permission for a decade. The list was long and calamitous. Amazingly (or maybe out of spite) several people passed on my details to others on LinkedIn and the trickle turned into a tidal wave.

...and another thing

Despite this battering, my colleagues told me that I should join the 21st Century and open a Facebook page. Thanks… I am now inundated with requests for ‘friends’ from people who seem three steps removed from anyone I have vaguely heard of. I feel like the digital equivalent of Kevin Bacon being three times removed from any movie. Yet the way you have to ‘decline’ a friend makes you feel like Greta Garbo crying “I vant to be alone…” Being someone’s friend takes time, not just a digital introduction because you both know the same bail bond officer.

At least occasionally things are livened up on my Facebook (and now Skype) by ‘ladies’ who send Benny Hill type double entendres eager to empty my wallet and a certain part of my anatomy at the same time. However this also has its drawback as it leads to strenuous denials to my beloved wife that I have neither sought these people out, nor am I planning some clandestine rendezvous with Tatiana and Chablis for a debauched evening of hide the sausage.

...and another thing

I ran a check today on the number of times the word ‘friend’ got trapped in my spam. It was in 74% of the blocked emails!

Many even start Dear Friend (when they really mean Dear Fu*kwit). Is there anybody left alive working the internet and with an IQ larger than their shoe size who does not smell a rat when offered these scams?

My new friends were offering me money left right and centre. FedEx packages full of money needing to be claimed, investment opportunities in a new drug that will make taking Viagra seem like playing snooker with wet spaghetti, a will with a fortune left by a man whose mother was the sister of the love child of some distant relative, the title deeds to gold mines in Timbuctoo or timber in Golddale, Uranium deposits in China and China deposits in Uran…you get the picture… always with a caveat;

“So if dear Friend you could punch out a little seed money to speed up the bureaucrats….”

If only I could send them all back something myself. Remember the man who said it is better to give than receive….he had the clap. So please can someone invent an app with a reply that is equally irritating to them, some sort of electronic version of thrush. Now there’s a business.

...and another thing

On top of people, I now have creatures be-friending me; everything form a cockatoo in the Brazilian jungle to a sperm whale in Botany Bay (Freud would have had a field day at my choice of examples). My friendship is of course measured by a financial contribution.

“Aha,” people say, “but at least you can unsubscribe.”

Oh really? Most read something like this…

“Dear friend,

Please if you do not wish to no longer not be unsubscribed click YES here or NO here.”

Before you have worked out all the double negatives you click the wrong one and instantly have subscribed this time for life as well agreed to a daily newsletter and details of special offers…. All from your friends at

...and another thing

There is even something worse for those of you on Apple. Can anyone remove the Apple watch icon from my iPhone? It clings to my screen with all the determination of an industrial strength limpet.

If you are my friend you get a Christmas card, if an acquaintance you get a reply to emails. Everyone else just F…F…F…Friend off.

The only exception of course is all you lot who have kindly subscribed to this blog. Thank you and if they make you laugh please send to your friends! If you get the following don’t blame me.

Dear Friend,

Congratulations. You have won the Lottery in Tristan da Cunha and a week-end away with Jennifer Lawrence or Kermit the Frog. Please send me details of your bank account…….”

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  1. Kevin Cooney says:

    The power of that LinkedIn popup – my local MP accepted my automated request and promptly resigned – London Brent Central.
    Another contacted me to see if I could do with some help writing Plain English.
    HELP needed for itchy clicking finger! Might even have tried to friend my lovely wife. She will be suspicious as says I normally don’t take any notice of her – or something like that!

  2. Peter says:

    You are so right !! But I am proud to say I have no social media friends. I suspect that if their is a heaven Facebook and Twitter have not yet arrived.

  3. Mike Wells says:

    How about being prompted to congratulate someone you attended a meeting with once on their ‘work anniversary’……drives me nuts. It’s as if its unusual for anyone to hold the same job down for more than 5 minutes.

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