Fergus O’Farrell, RIP

*I was so sad to hear of the passing of Fergus O’Farrell of Interference on Tuesday. I didn’t know him well (I interviewed him at his home in West Cork in 2011 and we kept in touch afterwards by email) but I was so struck by his decision to keep making art, music and visual, in the face of such serious illness. He couldn’t walk, he could barely use one of his arms, but he kept going. His music was magnificent — everyone who knows Interference knows that, and I feel so lucky to have seen them perform live — but Ferg’s entire life was an inspiration. If anyone wants to find out a little more about him, here’s the interview I did with him in 2011: may you rest in peace, Ferg. x

Redemption songs, The Sunday Business Post
BY NADINE O’REGAN ON JUNE 4, 2011

Muscular dystrophy robbed Fergus O’Farrell’s muscles of their strength, but it has failed to sap his songs of their power

Just before Christmas, Fergus O’Farrell nearly died.

He developed serious pneumonia – it was the sixth time he’d had pneumonia – and a kidney stone.

He was on a ventilator in hospital for 20 days. But O’Farrell doesn’t have much interest in talking about his near-death experience. He faces down those threats most days of his life.

O’Farrell suffers from muscular dystrophy, a disease that causes his muscles to slowly waste away. Doctors told his parents that he would be in a wheelchair by 14 and dead by 20. At 43,O’Farrell has no interest in talking about death.

Instead he talks about his pneumonia only in the context of what’s really important to him: his music. ‘‘It delayed getting the album finished,” he says. ‘‘I won’t release it if I’m not happy with it. But I definitely want to have it ready soon.”

Small shouldered, clad in a hoody top and sporting a well-trimmed beard, O’Farrell, the frontman of renowned cult Irish band Interference, has blue eyes that have seen pain, but which also radiate a sturdy form of optimism against the odds.

The room he’s sitting in couldn’t help but inspire positivity in a person. Bordered on three sides by windows, it faces directly onto Schull harbour in West Cork, with the east end of Long Island and its Copper Point light beacon just visible.

When I arrive, sunlight is filling the spacious room holding a piano, a large wooden table covered with art created in watercolours, acrylic paint and ink pens, and a leafy potted plant in one corner. It’s beautiful and you feel glad that it’s so.

This room is where O’Farrell spends most of his time. In a wheelchair, O’Farrell’s hands are no longer strong enough to play guitar anymore, so, in the past few years he has learned to express himself through visual art. ‘‘When you’re playing a musical instrument you become one with it,” he says.

‘‘And a song emerges. I use the same process with painting. I start improvising with the colours.”

Right now, he’s sighing over one of his mixed media works. A few nights ago, O’Farrell poured some white paint on it ‘‘and ruined it’’.

He’s cross with himself, thinking of the time he had to spend scraping the white paint off, the work that has been potentially wasted and must be started again.

O’Farrell is a perfectionist – it’s one reason why his band Interference are so revered – and not just by DJs such as RTE’s Dave Fanning and Dan Hegarty, but by musicians, young and old, all around the country.

‘‘I’ll give 150 per cent,” says O’Farrell. ‘‘I always wanted to be so good that it’d never be this [pity thing].” It never has been.

In his salad days, O’Farrell, born in Cork, spent ten years living in Dublin, where, as Glen Hansard, one of his biggest fans, explains in an e-mail, ‘‘they were looked up to by all the biggest bands in town, and yet they were a secret kept from the common music fan’’.

Decades later, owing to O’Farrell’s condition, Interference are rarely in the public eye, but music fans are still in thrall to them. When I mentioned on Twitter that I was on my way to see O’Farrell in West Cork, musicians, including Choice Music Prize winner Jape, got in touch to ask me to pass on their best regards.

There’s a love there for the band that is rooted in a genuine admiration for their artistry. Live, Interference are something to behold.

Their music washes over you, all held together by O’Farrell’s voice, which is a remarkable instrument. His phrasing has an incredible elegance to it and his tone is warm, world-weary and beguiling. Cumulatively the band make you think of two of the most hyped young acts of today, Fleet Foxes and Grizzly Bear.

When Interference performed last year at the Cork X Southwest festival, they were better than both. Next Friday, they will perform at the Temple House festival in Sligo – a rare gig for them that represents quite a coup for the festival.

Every gig O’Farrell travels to costs him far more physically than most musicians – and in a week when Prime Time Investigates exposed the gaping holes in the health care system, it’s easy to imagine how difficult his life – even in such beautiful surroundings – must often be.

O’Farrell rattles off the background details of his diagnosis in a matter-of-fact fashion. ‘‘I was diagnosed with muscular dystrophyat the age of eight,’’ he says. ‘‘Your muscles get worn away. They don’t get replaced. I was cycling until I was 15, on a motorbike until I was 16. I was walking until my early twenties. Then I was in a wheelchair. By the end of the first album I was in an electric wheelchair. ‘‘With some conditions you inherit them in your genes. In my case, it’s not present in the genes of my mother or father.

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An economy recovers — artists suffer?

Nadine O’Regan: Artistic Licence

 

You can feel it, can’t you? It’s in the little things: the purchase of an unnecessarily expensive birthday gift, the impulse shopping in the sales, the decision to go on a foreign holiday. Slowly but surely, confidence is being restored to the Irish public.

The so-called green shoots are flourishing. We’re all thinking about upping the ante, changing our cars, negotiating our jobs upwards, selling our houses. Companies are hiring again.

There’s a heady whiff of banknotes and excitement in the air.

But what does an economic recovery mean for artists? You’d think it would be a good thing: more arts fans will want to go out, spend money on seeing plays, buying books, going to the cinema.

Perhaps funding for the arts might increase, particularly if the government sees fit to stop squandering all its cash on 1916 spectacles, and diverts the money into more meaningful engagements for those artists who are creating independent work and need financial support for those projects to bear fruit.

But, in truth, a thriving economy puts a terrible pressure on artists. As more than one artist noted back in the boom, the Celtic Tiger did little or nothing for them.

They didn’t see the kind of pay boosts that many office workers and those in the building industry enjoyed. Instead, almost paradoxically, they faced more pressures: pressure to take up nine-to-five jobs that were available and vaguely suitable; pressure to spend more money on nights out with friends in fancy restaurants; pressure to rent places they couldn’t afford; and pressure to ostentatiously spend, spend, spend.

When the wheels of the construction industry ground to a halt and the cranes vanished from our skylines, the artists returned. Over the past few years, it’s been a pleasure to live in a Dublin that is so full of creative life.

The crash brought with it intense financial hardship for so many, but it also gave us back a sense of community and cameraderie.

Theatre practitioners shared their work spaces, musicians helped each other out for free on studio recordings, debut authors wrote books, partly because they’d been made redundant from their jobs, and had the time to do so.

Novels by authors such as former Sunday Tribune writers Gavin Corbett and Paul Lynch might not have emerged without the kind of push the bust offered.

The Guardian wrote in late 2015 about the astonishing surge of fiction coming from Irish authors of late. Headlined “A new Irish literary boom”, the article by Justine Jordan chronicled the rise of debut authors such as Eimear McBride, Sara Baume, Lisa McInerney and Colin Barrett, describing how there was a “palpable energy” in Irish fiction.

The timing of such energy isn’t a coincidence, as novelist Claire Kilroy noted in the article, arguing that the consumerist ideology of the boom had meant that Irish writers became “artistically neutered” during that time. She wasn’t wrong.

We are a nation of dreamers, thinkers and creatives. But we often undervalue our own gifts, and, in tandem, our needs in terms of doing creative jobs that we find fulfilling.

Study after study has shown that money only brings us happiness up to a certain point: after you become financially comfortable, a bigger pay cheque no longer increases your happiness in the same way.

In Dingle at the Other Voices festival last month, I was lucky enough to hear Donal Lunny giving a Banter talk in Foxy John’s pub. “It’s important for your wellbeing,” Lunny said, “to be involved in things one likes.” It was such simple advice, but it stuck with me.

We need to learn lessons from our boom-to-bust past. We need to nurture our artists and remember that, if and when the good times come again, it shouldn’t be at the expense of our national creativity. A commercial boom shouldn’t have to spell a creative bust.

Songs in the Key of Life: 2015 remembered

SITKOL

Happy Christmas!

Can’t believe we’re nearly at the end of another year; it’s been a great one for us on Songs in the Key of Life.

A particular highlight this year was winning Bronze in the category of Specialist Music at the PPI Radio Awards for the show with Blindboy of the Rubberbandits, but to be honest, every show has been really great fun: it’s been an honour and pleasure to hang out with so many great guests on behalf of the programme.

In case you missed anything, below is a list of all my guests from the past year. You can listen back to many of the more recent shows by going to http://www.txfm.ie/listenback.

Coming up in Jan 2016, by the way, we’ll have a two-part special with Matt Berninger of The National and El Vy, so make sure to keep an ear out for it.

Have a lovely holiday.

Nadine

x

 

 

2015 on Songs in the Key of Life

January 3rd — a special for the new sounds of 2015 with Pitchfork’s Chris Kaskie, Royal Blood and Lily & Madeleine

January 10th — singer-songwriter Gemma Hayes

January 17th — Richie Egan of Jape

January 24th — Mike Scott of The Waterboys

January 31st — Hilary Woods, ex JJ72, singer-songwriter

February 7th — Steve Garrigan and Mark Prendergast from Kodaline

February 14th — comedian Neil Delamere

February 21st — Sam Fogarino from Interpol

February 28th — Father John Misty

March 7th — Roisin Ingle, journalist with the Irish Times and author

March 14th — singer-songwriter Duke Special

March 21st — Ana Matronic of Scissor Sisters

March 28th — Blindboy of The Rubberbandits

April 4th — Carrie Brownstein of Sleater-Kinney

April 11th — Niamh Farrell of Ham Sandwich

Arpil 18th — Broadcaster and author Dan Hegarty

April 25th — Mercury Prize nominee Ghostpoet

May 2nd — The Airbourne Toxic Event’s Mikel Jollett

May 9th — singer-songwriter Matthew E White

May 16th — Dublin DJ Dandelion

May 23rd — Trainspotting author Irvine Welsh

May 30th — Jon Ronson, author and screenwriter

June 6th — Broadcaster George Hook of Newstalk

June 13th — Johnny Borrell, ex-Razorlight

June 20th — MayKay from Fight Like Apes (presented by John Caddell)

June 27th — Ron Sexmith, singer-songwriter

July 4th — Graham Hopkins, drummer with The Frames among others

July 11th — St Vincent

July 18th (no show owing to Longitude)

July 25th — Aidan Gillen, actor

August 1st — Paul Murray, author

August 8th — Oliver Cole, singer-songwriter, ex-Turn

August 15th — Jack Whitehall, comedian and actor/writer

August 22nd — Shane Hegarty, author and journalist

August 29th — Leagues O’Toole, promoter, author and broadcaster

September 5th — Michael Shuman of Queens of the Stone Age & Mini-Mansions

September 12th — Karl Geraghty of The Workman’s Club in Dublin

September 19th — Thomas Bartlett of The Gloaming

September 26th — Catherine Hardwicke, director of Twilight

October 3rd — Tom and Hayden from Wild Beasts

October 10th — Cait O’Riordan, ex-Pogues

October 17th — Adrian Crowley, singer-songwriter

October 24th — Ezra Furman, singer-songwriter

October 31st — Paul Cleary from The Blades

November 7th — Louise O’Neill, Irish author

November 14th — Matt Cooper, Today FM broadcaster and author

November 21st —  Irish author Kevin Barry

November 28th — Sinead Gleeson, broadcaster, editor and journalist

December 5th — Aoife Woodlock, music producer of Other Voices

December 12th  — Irish musician and producer Joe Chester

December 19th — Best of Part One

 

Bono & Me: Why I’ve Started to Warm to Bono (again)

bonoPublished in The Sunday Business Post, 13th September 2015 by Nadine O’Regan
Don’t hate me for saying this, but I think I’m warming to Bono again. I’ve been trying to figure out quite when this strange development came to pass.
It’s not a recent thing; it’s not just because U2 have finally resolved, after much indecision and bellyaching about suitable venues, to bring their Innocence and Experience world tour to Ireland.
And it’s not because – after years of being seemingly the only music journalist in the country not to have my own personal U2 anecdote – I finally had a brief encounter with the band. I had the good fortune to find myself at a fancy dinner in Dalkey last summer where I sat within spitting distance of the Edge; I can confirm he did not remove his hat for the duration of the meal.
It certainly has nothing to do with the patchy quality of their newish album, which they inserted into everyone’s iTunes last year without permission, leading to all manner of jokes about everyone needing better firewalls against Bono.
No, the truth is I started to like Bono again when I heard something bad had happened to him. Last November, Bono came off his bike in New York’s Central Park and hurt himself seriously, requiring surgery on his arm. And that was it: I heard the news and I felt awful for him. I felt that quiver of alarm that you get when you hear something terrible has happened to one of your relatives, who happens to live in a foreign country, but who you keep in tangential contact with through your folks.
Bono is family. He’s your annoying uncle. He’s your dad when he drinks too much and spouts off. He’s your entrepreneurial cousin who made a fortune in an internet company and who everyone pats on the back while secretly resenting. Sure, he’s on a TV screen instead of on the settee in the front room, but he’s there nonetheless, being annoying, being talented, being in your face, then rushing off and meeting the Pope on you.

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Colm Toibin interview (Sunday Business Post)

I published this interview with Colm Toibin in April in The Sunday Business Post. Here’s hoping that by this time tomorrow, Toibin gets his wish — the right to marry his partner in Ireland.

Colm Tóibín on same sex marriage: ‘The idea that I’m being excluded is hurtful to me’
03:55, 19 April 2015 by Nadine O’Regan

Colm Tóibín feels wounded, personally attacked and damaged.
The reason for his feelings is simple. Over the past few months, as the debate over the impending gay marriage referendum has gathered momentum, Tóibín has watched with increasing agitation as commentators have argued against granting him the right to marry his partner in his home country.
“When there’s somebody telling me that I can’t share my love with my partner publicly, I call that discrimination,” the renowned Irish novelist told The Sunday Business Post. “It’s very hurtful.”
In a phone call from New York, where he is teaching at Columbia University, the thrice Booker-nominated author of bestselling novels including Brooklyn, The Blackwater Lightship and Nora Webster, spoke eloquently and with palpable emotion about how Ireland’s response to gay marriage – and by extension to him as a gay man – has affected him.
“This isn’t like other debates,” Tóibín said. “In a debate about the economy or foreign policy, everybody could have a different view and you could argue your point. The problem is, if you’re gay, it’s fundamental to you.
“If someone thinks that I should not have the right to love, it’s very difficult to handle and it’s very difficult to be rational in response.
“I see people such as David Quinn and Breda O’Brien as a fundamental part of our democracy. They’re people who make arguments and if they didn’t Ireland would be the poorer. Having people represent another side of an argument is important.
“But in this case it’s very difficult because it’s so fundamental. I don’t think that in the large cases of discrimination that we know about – for example Catholics in Northern Ireland – that if someone told them that their right to love, and their right for it to be recognised in public, would be added to the other indignities they would be suffering under – well, it’s an extreme thing to do.”
Same-sex civil unions have been recognised in Ireland since 2011, but Tóibín does not believe they should be considered an appropriate compromise or substitution for the institution of marriage.
“In Ireland, ritual is important to us, especially because families are so close. Weddings matter in Ireland and being excluded from them is really sad. If you’re at your brother’s wedding and you realise, ‘I can’t have one of those’, it makes you feel that [people consider that] you’re not really in love with your boyfriend. You can have civil partnership but we [straight people] can have the whole thing.”
Tóibín was particularly distressed recently by an article written by political writer Bruce Arnold, in which Arnold argued against the prospect of gay marriage in Ireland, describing how important his marriage had been to him in his life.
“I’ve known Bruce Arnold a long time and I knew his wife and I have enormous respect for him as a journalist,” Tóibín said. “When I read the piece I was personally hurt by it. I was happy I wouldn’t see him on the street. I would have tried to get by very quickly.
“In the piece he was thinking about his own life, and the way in which his marriage had mattered to him. If I were to argue to him, I would argue about my life. I’ve done my best in Ireland as a writer. People read my books and I have made a contribution to Irish society as a journalist and a writer.
“The idea that I’m being excluded from something that Bruce treasures so much is very hurtful to me. I couldn’t understand why he wouldn’t say that, since he had all this happiness and it came his way and mattered so much, that surely he would want to give other people that rather than exclude them from it.”
Born and raised in Enniscorthy, Tóibín, who is 59, has struggled in the past with his identity as a gay man, rarely speaking publicly on the subject. In 2009, he defended his decision to this reporter not to answer questions about his sexuality.
“It’s bad enough being bald,” he said. “It’s bad enough being Irish. The labels don’t matter. When you’re working, you’re working to get things out.”
In 1993, Tóibín refused a commission to write about his sexuality for the London Review of Books, fobbing them off at the time by saying that he had “nothing polemical and personal, or even long and serious, to say on the subject”.
But the truth was, back then, he found it hard to get the words out. “Everyone knew I was gay,” he said, when asked about coming out as a gay man. “This would go back to me being 18 or 19, but I didn’t write about it. I didn’t feel comfortable writing about it.”
The subject seeped through into his fiction nonetheless. One of his early novels The Blackwater Lightship (1999) dealt directly with sexuality, telling the story of Helen, her mother Lily and grandmother Dora, who have come together to tend to Helen’s brother Declan, who is dying of Aids in an Ireland of the 1990s.
In The Story of the Night (1997), meanwhile, Tóibín’s gay lead character Richard understands that he will feel his relationship is meaningless unless it is recognised by other people.
Tóibín believes it is important for voters around the country to frame the marriage referendum in personal terms, asking themselves how they would feel if it was their son or daughter who was gay or lesbian and wished to get married.
“If you ask people hard abstract questions, using words like ‘institution of marriage’, that’s one thing,” he said. “But if you say your nephew is gay and he’s 16, the first people would feel is a sense of worry – ‘Will he be all right?’
“It becomes pressing and important that this person you know would have a reasonable expectation of a happy life. The less abstract it is, the more sympathetic people are.”
Tóibín accepts there are voters who will refuse to vote yes in the marriage referendum on religious grounds, but pointed out that Irish people live in a secular state. “I have no argument with Catholic teaching or with Muslims or Jewish people,” he said.
“This is not an argument of religion. It’s an argument to do with our state. Our state is a secular state. Mary McAleese is a practising Catholic, but from the moment she became president of Ireland she welcomed gay people and lesbians into her world. She said, ‘Why are we discriminating against people who are totally innocent?’”
Last week, in an important development for the Yes campaign, the former president publicly urged voters towards a Yes vote, asking them to quell any of their fears about the future of children. “People have been saying it’s about children,” McAleese said. “We believe it to be about Ireland’s gay children and their future and the kind of future we want for Ireland.”
Asked to respond to voters’ concerns over issues such as gay adoption, Tóibín said the rights of the child were of paramount importance in society. “The rights of the child have been established in law,” he said. “If anyone is going to adopt a child there has to be enormous attention paid to who these people are. It’s not as though there’s suddenly going to be a free-for-all and that children who are otherwise happy and cared for are going to be put into a situation where their rights aren’t put first.”
Tóibín still dislikes speaking about his sexuality. He agreed to do this interview – and to speak at Trinity College on May 14 ahead of the referendum – because he wants people to understand what it feels like to be in his position. “It’s important,” he said simply.
Life for Tóibín is moving at a busy clip – his novel Brooklyn has been made into a hotly tipped film starring Saoirse Ronan, set to be released later this year, and he has just published a new critical study: Colm Tóibín on Elizabeth Bishop – but he will make sure he is home in Ireland to vote on May 22.
He laughed bashfully when I asked him about his partner, who lives in the States. Will Tóibín marry if he is given the opportunity in Ireland?
“That’s a lovely idea, isn’t it?” Tóibín said. “That’d be lovely. These things are very personal and I think I’d better not make any proposals via The Sunday Business Post. But I’m not ruling anything out. I’d love to say to my partner that we could go back to Ireland and get married in my country.
“I’d love to have that right.”

We Shade to Grey: my Sunday Business Post column, 8th February 2015

Truly, it is the love that dares not speak its name. People might not have been discussing it in their more hipster gatherings or at elegant dinner parties (in fact if the subject comes up, they’ll loudly decry their interest), but all around the country women have been slipping away to block-book tickets to see Fifty Shades of Grey, the film adaptation of EL James’s S&M global erotic romance smash, starring Irish actor Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson, which emerges, with deliberately cutesy timing, on Valentine’s weekend.
Speaking to one cinema owner before Christmas, he expressed doubt about how well Fifty Shades of Grey would do in Ireland, unsure if the book’s success would translate into bums on seats. But recent advance bookings have proved that the interest is there: the trailer has become the most viewed in movie history, and women are snapping up tickets at a rate of knots.
But that’s the deal with Fifty Shades of Grey. Everybody loudly condemns it, and then they download it onto their Kindles, sneak away with it on holidays or purloin their friends’ copies of the book. I used to own Fifty Shades of Grey, but it’s long gone, disappeared through a chain of people who “wouldn’t read that rubbish”, but nonetheless asked if they could borrow it. One of the reasons for the novel’s initial ascent into mainstream popularity – leaving aside EL James’s mind-boggling feat of welding S&M to the type of sugary dialogue you’d find in a Sweet Valley High novel – was the fact that it could be bought on a Kindle, so no one could see you reading it. When it became mainstream fodder, Fifty Shades became acceptable to buy in shops, on the grounds that everyone else was buying it. But it still came pre-loaded with a sense of mortification, which continues to linger around the film.
Would you want to be spotted going to Fifty Shades of Grey? Let’s face it, it’s not like telling people you’re off to watch Birdman. I’m going to a reviewers’ screening soon, so I can justify the entire thing on the grounds that it’s for work. While I’m happy to go to the cinema on my own ordinarily, there’s no way I’d venture to Fifty Shades solo. I’m not sure I’d see it with a date either: you’d want to be pretty comfortable with your beloved to sit through those Red Room of Pain bondage scenes. (Advance word has it that a full fifth of the film’s running time is given over to sex scenes.)
But I am curious about it. So I can understand the reports that there have been 80 per cent block advance bookings for the film by women – they want to see the film, but they’re embarrassed, and there’s strength in numbers. “Will we go for a laugh?” they’ll say to each other, and “the laugh” will be justification enough.
Still, even as a guilty pleasure, the movie has to justify their time, and advance details to date don’t look inspiring. It has an odd choice of director: Sam Taylor-Johnson, best known for her work as a visual artist. The previous lead actor backed out of the project, leaving Jamie Dornan to step up. Some scenes have had to be reshot on the grounds that they weren’t “sexy enough”. In the trailers I’ve seen, Johnson looks to be massively overacting, coming over like Kristen Stewart in Twilight times 100 (a terrifying proposition).
Much of the problem stems from a confusion around the book’s success: no one suspected it would become such a hit – and people still aren’t sure exactly why it has been. In recent interviews, Dornan has sounded uncertain about the project, and he’s right to be. There’s a lot riding on this film, his career included.
Could it become the biggest turkey in history? Will it be a smash hit? Either way, expect illegal downloading of the movie to be rife – after all, if you’re going to watch a film in the privacy of your own home, with no one else to see you, Fifty Shades is a perfect choice.

Our so-called lives (my Artistic Licence column, SBP, Feb 1, 2015)

A few weeks ago, yet another new trend started on Facebook. Like last August’s ice-bucket challenge, but without the charity incentive, friends started daring each other to share their first profile pictures on Facebook, the ones they had posted up as far back as 2005, or whenever they first joined Facebook. Much amusement ensued as Facebook users posted up pictures of themselves from a decade or so back – younger versions sporting dodgy haircuts or accompanied by even dodgier ex-boyfriends. Everyone laughed (or LOLed, if you prefer). It was cute.

But looking at all the younger, fresher faces, I couldn’t help but notice that there seemed to be a key difference between the old faces and the new, that had nothing to do with the age gaps involved. Back then, when Facebook first became a thing in Ireland, it felt like we weren’t all so concerned about how we appeared to each other on the site. We weren’t as self-conscious. We weren’t keeping up with the Joneses. We weren’t toting selfie sticks. We weren’t building social media empires. We were just ourselves, in internet format: lumps, bumps, bad fashion and all.

These days, Facebook is an entirely different beast. Around Christmas time, I was having a chat in the pub with a friend I hadn’t seen in ages. “How are you getting on?” he enquired. “Or do I even need to ask – every time I see a picture of you on Facebook or Twitter, you’re doing so great.” I was a little taken aback. Actually, 2014 had been a tough year. But would I have admitted that on Facebook? Would I hell.

Almost without realising it, I had become complicit in a kind of Facebook fraud, selectively editing my life for social media. In fact, when I thought back on it, it struck me that if my year had been better, my Facebook profile would have been less, well, incredibly happy looking. I wouldn’t have felt the need to bother.

Like an awful lot of people these days, my Facebook profile is something of a front. Sure, all the pictures on it are real. But it’s a selective truth, about as representative of my day-to-day life as a glitzy, big-budget MTV video is representative of a musician’s life. I don’t put up pictures of the bad days, the down moments. And here’s the thing – neither does almost anyone else.

If I want to see my friends getting engaged, crossing the line in marathons, getting their degrees, dancing at festivals, I’ll go onto Facebook. But if I’m going to find out about the pain behind their eyes – the truth about how their husband had an affair, or how their mum has been diagnosed with cancer – I’m going to hear it in a pub or a coffee shop, in intimate moments, not on social media. (The few people willing to post messages about life traumas remain exceptions to the rule.)

Facebook itself is a kind of fraud. It promises you friendship with others. But it’s a friendship that prompts you to share a kind of happiness that verges on boasting. It gives you a false impression of people. You might feel close to them through seeing their pictures, but you don’t know them. Not only that, but not only do you not see their problems, you might go completely the other way, and think they’re having the most marvellous time – and that’s bad for you. Study after study has shown that, although Facebook’s popularity is rampant, the network often depresses people. It makes them feel jealous – why did their friends have a party without them? Who’s that girl hanging onto their boyfriend? It makes them feel lonely and unpopular.

But Facebook is here to stay, at least in the short to medium term. That being the case, maybe it’s time for us all to put up some giant disclaimers about the nature of the site. When you use it, call it Fantasy Facebook in your mind – not just in regard to the stuff you’re putting up, but the stuff everyone else is sharing too. Facebook is just the life other people want you to believe they have.