I was just thinking about…Facebook for 50-somethings
By Barbara Polan
I graduated from high school in 1975 and have used Facebook for 7 years. Yesterday, a high school friend contacted me, dazzled that he could actually link up with such an old – “long-ago,” not “aged” – friend.
His exuberance took the form of chatting as soon as I accepted him as a friend. I was busy working, but heard a repeated (read “ annoying”) ping. Not being able to differentiate what electronic app was signaling me and thinking it was my husband wanting to chat on Skype, I repeatedly clicked the Skype icon in my dock, but nothing from Tom. Eventually I saw the FB chat window open with about a dozen statements from Teddy – about his family, being twice-divorced, jazz music, the real estate market in Pasadena, running in the upcoming Boston Marathon, his father in Jamaica, and that his mother still has the photo of us at the Junior Prom on her mantle. Plus that I was the “coolest” girl in our class, and I wouldn’t believe how often he thinks of me.
In 1975, all the preceding paragraph would have been gibberish. In fact, I think the last part is gibberish today.
Let’s face it though: we ARE long-ago AND aged friends; that shows up whenever we tell our kids (or grandkids) about life before personal computers, color TV’s and video games; life when our interaction with computers (which were the size of rooms) included punch cards and waiting until tomorrow to get our output, when phone numbers with a lot of 8’s and 9’s took forever to dial, when cell phones were called “car phones” because that’s where they were.
Admit it: If you’re not 50 yet, that paragraph is gibberish to you, except for the fact that your 50-something parents have already told you all that.
When I went to college, there was a booklet – pages printed and stapled together – with headshots of all incoming freshmen. For some unknown reason (unknown to me, but I’ll bet it was a slur on women), it was called the “pigbook.” You know that cute guy in Bio 101? Well, here he is on page 17: It’s Peter Johnson from Long Island, currently enrolled in the Ag school.
Legend has it that the pigbook equivalent at Harvard was called the “facebook,” clearly a more accurate term. But then, that’s Harvard, not the lower-status Ivy League school in the boondocks that I attended.
So, it’s not as though we 50-year-olds don’t know that the purpose of today’s Facebook is the same as the pigbook/facebook of old. That part, at least, Teddy got right.
And yes, we’ll get together in April 2013 when he comes east to run in the marathon (his 164th marathon so far,a fact he managed to squeeze in).
Here’s some unsolicited advice for 50-somethings who are thinking about using Facebook:
2. If you choose to disregard item #1, use FB in a limited way … to look up – not hook up with – high school and college friends. … to locate long-lost relatives … AND don’t friend anyone you don’t know … don’t friend your children’s friends, especially those they date (that’s for you own preservation because your daughter will kill you) … when you encounter something offensive on your child’s timeline, remember the Belushi era at SNL… don’t like any company you don’t want daily messages from (I might never again buy Heinz ketchup, and I have no idea why I liked it in the first place) … like everything your employer posts … post pix that will make people smile and say “awwwww,” … post text that encourages others … never post when you’re angry … never post anything about your job or co-workers … don’t worry about always having something profound to say, but try not to sound like a nitwit … don’t ever use all caps because it’s ranting (see “never post when you’re angry” above).
3. Put up a profile pic so that you don’t appear as one of the thousands of silhouettes with bad haircuts.
4. Back to #1. Seriously.
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