I joined Facebook on 19th August 2009 when I posted this picture of Harry and the sunflower he’d grown from seed in the back garden of our south London home.
I posted some more photos of a family holiday to the Balearic Islands on 6th September.
That was it for 2009. 11 holiday snaps, no text.
The truth is, I didn’t really know what Facebook was all about. Obviously, as the Marketing Director of a global company with over 10,000 employees worldwide I was not about to reveal this gap in my communications skills.
Then, in 2012, the penny finally dropped:
‘Being a man of upper middle age, I hadn’t really got the point of Facebook before Afghanistan. Now it had become a lifeline to a world without Hesco. A world where people, in the normal course of events, were not routinely and painstakingly planning to kill each other.
Instead they were posting pictures of the places they’d visited at the weekend, of their kids winning prizes at school, or even of the maddening commute to work they’d endured on Monday morning.
Sitting down at one of the battered and bruised keyboards in the welfare cabin I enjoyed my allotted 30 minutes of internet time, living vicariously through the delicious morsels of normality that my friends and family served up from all over the globe. With a like, comment or share, I was able to join them in that moment, and in doing so let them know I was alive and well.
Facebook now made perfect sense.’
But something unpleasant appears to have happened to Facebook since then. My news feed has fewer and fewer photos of sunny days out at the seaside, bike rides in the rain or other happy trivia of a life well lived. They’ve been replaced by more and more vitriolic pronouncements about BREXIT, Presidents, Islam and elections.
It doesn’t seem to matter which side of the political divide they emanate from, For or Against, Pro or Ante they are all personal and unpleasant attacks full of invective and hatefulness. Unfortunate photos of Theresa May appear alongside pictures mocking Jeremy Corbyn. It’s all getting a bit much. If you ask me, Facebook is beginning to feel more like Hatebook. There was a time when I wondered why anyone would post a photo of last night’s dinner, now I long for their return.
SPIN ZHIRA: Old Man in Helmand is the unauthorised, unvarnished and irreverent story of one man’s midlife crisis on the front line of the most dangerous district in Afghanistan where the locals haven’t forgiven the British for the occupation of 1842 or for the Russian Invasion of 1979. Of course, all infidels look the same so you can’t really tell them apart.
‘Brims with authenticity and dark humour.’
Patrick Hennessey, bestselling author of The Junior Officers’ Reading Club
Doug Beattie, bestselling author of An Ordinary Soldier
Dr Mike Martin, bestselling author of An Intimate War
‘A must read.’
Richard Dorney, bestselling author of The Killing Zone
‘The best book by a soldier concerning the Afghan War that I have read’
Frank Ledwidge, bestselling author of Losing Small Wars
SOLDIER The official magazine of the British Army
‘Not just for soldiers’
William Reeve, BBC World Service and Afghanistan Correspondent