Friends Reunited or 500 words on the inside of a ping-pong ball….

How long most people will continue to put up with corporate web 2.0 platforms when they could be controlling their own sites using similar software is anyone’s guess… What we do know is that while a platform like Facebook has many users, it is not necessarily profitable. That is not, of course, the only reason why the financial value of web services that rely on user generated content ping-pong, but it is definitely a contributing factor
One corporate operation that is clearly well past its sell-by date is Friends Reunited, which ITV bought for £170 million in 2005. Attempts to sell the platform have been ongoing for most of this year – in August DC Thomson put in a £25 million offer (£145 million less than ITV paid for it), but the sale has been blocked until April so that the Competition Commission can conduct an inquiry. It will be interesting to see whether DC Thomson – or anyone else – want to pay £25 million for Friends Reunited next spring.
Friends Reunited always struck me as a platform with limited appeal. The idea was that individuals registered as having attended specific schools and were thus able to locate their former classmates. If you want to reconnect with your schoolyard chums, having done so there seems little need to use Friends Reunited to stay in touch – email, Facebook and actual meetings are obviously a more opportune means of doing so. Likewise, as time has passed it has not only become much easier to find people online at places other than Friends Reunited, the pool of those who actually want to find old school friends has greatly dwindled.
I left school more than thirty years ago and have singularly failed to keep up with the kids I’d known up to the age of sixteen. I have no desire to get back in touch with them or find out what they are doing. What would we talk about? Institutionalised cruelty might be one topic of conversation… I think our experiences of most punishments were fairly similar – detention, the ruler, the slipper, the cane, lines etc. – but the one that in retrospect most excites me probably wouldn’t be much of a talking point.
I’m amused that I should have been punished for something, I forget exactly what, by being ordered to write a 500 word essay ‘on the inside of a ping-pong ball’. I enjoyed the exercise, it was rather Hegelian, an attempt to go back to philosophical first principles and build something from nothing. Of course, I didn’t think of it like that then, but I knew intuitively it was something with which I could demonstrate the full depths of my insolence…
I remember other kids talking about how they planned to complete this task. One thing on which we all agreed was that the inside of a ping-pong ball is filled with air. Of course, this statement isn’t true in outer space, and I was possibly the only kid to realise that such a qualification would help me fill up the essay I’d been assigned as punishment.
The kids from the local children’s home who went to my school sometimes called me Brains, and they definitely though I was being a bit flash when I told a couple of them that the inside of a ping-pong ball was concave, and I’d contrasted this with the outside which is convex. I’d done this is maths but the kids I told about it weren’t in the O-level maths group (the vast majority of kids were in CSE or non-exam classes), and I guess they’d studied something different. The punishment had been assigned by a PE teacher for some infraction during a sports session, and was dished out to an assortment of boys from different academic classes.
No one else seemed to understand why I enjoyed stringing together an essay on the inside of a ping-pong ball: “The inside of a ping-pong ball is filled with air, except in outer space. Air consists primarily of oxygen and the air inside a ping-pong ball contains exactly the same amount of oxygen as the air immediately outside it…. etc. etc.” I wish I still had the essay, but since it was done as a punishment it wasn’t returned to me. I doubt it was even read, the idea was to humiliate us, the teacher probably just wanted to see that we’d filled out a couple of pages with something.
I wasn’t humiliated, I felt like I’d triumphed, but that clearly wasn’t the case for most of those who found themselves assigned this task. Their failure to understand why I perceived shit like this as a victory over an oppressive system, is one of the reasons I’ve never used a platform like Friends Reunited to get back in touch with them.
And while you’re at it don’t forget to check – – you know it makes (no) sense!


Comment by Zen Master K on 2009-11-07 11:28:07 +0000

Did they also make you write essays on the length of a piece of string?

Comment by Christopher Nosnibor on 2009-11-07 11:40:20 +0000

There’s a reason I’ve avoided Friends Reunited… I suppose the clue’s in the name, and like ‘workmates,’ ‘scholfriends’ is largely a misnomer. As with the prospect of school reunions, I can’t get enthused or really see the point. As I see it, the core purpose seems to be that you want to see the people you’ve not seen in years and didn’t like in the first place because you’ve done so absolutely brilliantly fucking well for yourself you just have go go and gloat and laud it over the sad cunts who’ve not achieved nearly as much.
I have had a skim through FR in the name of research (indeed, some of the ‘about me’ pages I found I’ve used for writing ‘characters’ or otherwise making points when getting existential) and have found it to be the most depressing site on the Internet. ‘Since I left school, I married a plumber and have a house, 3 doors up the street from my parents. Got 2.4 kids, 2 cars and a dog. I’m an uncle, now too! We go on holiday to Tenerife every summer and av it large!’ etc. Wow. Great. So that’s what life’s about, is it? Shoot me now. Or get me to another website, pronto! One where I can read essays on ping-pong balls would be cool, or one where I can talk to people I don’t know, but who are a lot more interesting than the drongos I went to school with.

Comment by This Is Not Nick Hornby on 2009-11-07 11:43:14 +0000

You’re being unfair, I didn’t have any friends at school and so Friends Reunited enabled me to become friends with all the boys who’d bullied me. Friends Reunited provides a great service.

Comment by The Real Tessie on 2009-11-07 12:35:11 +0000

I’ll give you the inside of a ping-pong ball buster – crushed between the top of your head and a baseball bat. Unless you can explain to me why you didn’t come back to the Big Blogger Flat last night and that explanation convinces me you weren’t with another woman or plastic doll!

Comment by scotty up shaft on 2009-11-07 12:38:48 +0000

i thought u meant on the actual inside of the ball 🙁

Comment by gillian wearing on 2009-11-07 12:54:00 +0000

I am not interested in this

Comment by raymond anderson on 2009-11-07 17:40:57 +0000

The only good ping pong ball is a blown one and its coming home!
Do you remember the days of the old school yard?..we used to laugh a lot…but thats Linda Lewis’ version of things
Brains is such a Hue and Cry, Bash St Kids sort of nick..better than Joe 90 or c**t though.
I think there’s a few copyright issues going on with the old school essay thing.
The first time I went on FR there was a name that sent a shiver up my spine. As I read his description I found he liked stalking people on the Internet.

Comment by Far Out Fred on 2009-11-07 17:43:45 +0000

If you smoke enough reefer man, you won’t be able to remember your school days. I can barely remember the log-in to my hotmail account. It’s a trip dude!

Comment by Michael Brady on 2009-11-07 19:26:57 +0000

Jeez, Stewart, are you telling me I’m sad because I joined Friends Reunited? Surely you must be sadder than me because you seem to belong to a lot more social networks than I do!

Comment by Charles Lambert on 2009-11-07 19:36:22 +0000

How did you get 500 words to fit inside a ping-pong ball?

Comment by David Cox on 2009-11-07 19:42:10 +0000

‘bouncing a few ideas around’?

Comment by raymond anderson on 2009-11-07 19:59:18 +0000

Ere.. Paolo Hewitt wrote an essay about the inside of a Brutus Trimfit!

Comment by Cindy Sherman on 2009-11-07 20:46:40 +0000

If you think you had it tough, you don’t know the Growing Pains of going to school in Hungtington, Long Island. It was a playground for the rich and a loaded gun to me…

Comment by Giles Lane on 2009-11-07 21:09:17 +0000

bet they just go back and forth

Comment by fi on 2009-11-07 21:27:05 +0000


Comment by Mountweazel on 2009-11-08 17:02:57 +0000

I enjoy using corporate web 2.0 networks to get in touch with other discarnate spirits, what’s wrong with that?

Comment by Old Rope on 2009-11-09 17:27:44 +0000

Old Rope has run websites in the past, pre Web 2.0, and it was a painful and unrewarding experience. It still is in the land of web 2.0, but it is slightly easier. I for one have no qualms about using this bad-assed shit as the noose (made from old rope) with which to hang the fuckers with.
That said, Friends Reunited is massively shite, of course.
Back when it was started Old Rope heard that people were using F.R. to be hilariously cruel about one another and eagerly rushed to clamber aboard, hoping for a slice of the joshing. I found that there was no one else from my school there at all and, panicking, desperately tried to remove myself lest I look like a sad fuck. I may be a sad fuck, but I can live without people leaping to that conclusion the wrong way.
In conclusion, ITV is wank, watch only the communist organ that is the BBC!

Comment by Tim on 2009-11-10 19:36:23 +0000

I had no idea ‘Friends Reunited’ still existed. I actually have been staying in touch with people I went to school with – through facebook, most recently. But we went to school in a colorful, remote town in northern Canada which suffered a catastrophic downturn when we were all in our teens (and is now almost totally abandoned), so hey, if that doesn’t give you something in common what will?
That is, however, the most interesting punishment (and rebuttal) I’ve ever seen. Why, all I had growing up was semi-psychotic nuns.

Published At