You should never say never.
Last week – after years and years of vociferous declarations that I’d sooner gnaw off my own leg than sign on to the most ubiquitous of social media platforms – I joined Facebook.
Am I the last living person over the age of 15 to do so? Well maybe not, but there have been times when I felt the conversational isolation as keenly as the teenager whose folks refused to let watch Number 96 or Alvin Purple.
Perhaps my stubborn defiance of what has become a new social norm might have continued if it were not for The Running Man.
I was introduced to the man fondly dubbed the Forrest Gump of Moonee Valley by Christian Lonzi, who offered him as an example of one of the extraordinarily galvanising examples of Facebook.
The none-too-sharp photo of an old man running past an advertising hoarding in Essendon attracted an astonishing 1147 likes and 187 comments when Lonzi posted it on his Moonee Valley Memes site a year ago.
It’s a compelling example of how a stranger can intersect so many lives over decades, wearing a track into the very heart of the community and yet, few even know his name.
Judy Swanson wrote: “I first saw him 43 years ago whilst travelling on the No 49 from Airport West on my way to business college in the city. Saw him again recently with my daughter, couldn’t believe he was still running.”
Aldo Farfalla confirmed: “The guy is a legend and runs from Flemington to Essendon every day and has been doing since I was five, possibly longer. Around 40 odd years that I know of.”
While Joe Barbalaco observed the running man was “the first person who said hello when we moved into the area 14 years ago and still running. Inspiration!”
“I love this guy. He would run past my shop twice a day and always said hello,” Ljuba Hegedis posted.
And so the comments run on and on.
It’s clear The Running Man has been garnering friends for many years longer than Facebook first began fomenting in Mark Zuckerberg’s Harvard dorm.
It’s unnerving to think Zuckerberg’s baby – initially called Facemash and devised as a way to rate fellow students as “hot or not” – should have become so embedded in our lives.
This year Facebook turned 10 – it’s not even old enough to sign up for its own account.
The Facebook statistics are extraordinary.
Allegedly one in every 13 people on earth is on Facebook and it has consistently rated as the most popular social network in Australia for years, with 13,400,000 users as of last month. (August)
Australians also spend more time on Facebook than anyone else – an average of 8.5 hours a week – with 75 per cent of users visiting the site every day.
One in four check Facebook first thing in the morning and last thing at night, they log on at work (34%), school (18%), in the car (13%), in bed (44%) and even in the toilet (6%).
The majority of users are women and 50+ is the fastest growing demographic … which I guess is where I come in.
Clearly there’s no running away any longer.