My experience – and the little box on my Facebook Profile – tells me that there are a whole bunch of us fifty-somethings on Facebook these days. And why? Who knows? Maybe we stumbled upon it out of curiosity or maybe some of us signed up to see what our kids are up to. In either case, we’re here. We’re fifty and we’re Facebooking. (everything’s a verb these days, isnt’ it?) There are, however, a few social networking protocols I’m still a little fuzzy on. I set up my page and uploaded my profile picture and some pictures of my family and friends. I also included pertinent work and education information. I can keep up with what my kids are doing – at least the ones who have accepted my Friend requests. One didn’t. But maybe it’s because I’m trying desperately – as an anthropologist might – to figure out all the formalities of being a Facebook friend. For instance…
So, you get an account and start collecting friends. Much easier than when I was 12. I can even get Facebook to crawl through my email account and find all the people in my Contacts list who have Facebook pages. Then you issue a request. Frankly, it can be as nerve-wracking as when I was 12. Because – what do you do if someone “friends” you and you don’t know them? Or don’t like them. Or worse – you “friend” someone and they NEVER respond. Ever. Not that that has been the case, but what if? This is a whole other protocol – being “friended” – that I have yet to figure out. I play it safe – I accept everyone’s request.
Everyone on Facebook has a “Wall” on which you can post a comment or greeting. My golden rule about this one is to avoid indiscriminate posting at all costs. Or worse – drunk-posting. Here’s the scenario: You’re up late, having a glass of wine or two and you decide to see what’s going on with your new friends. There are several former high school classmates that you’ve recently added and one of them has posted a clever and interesting status update or wall post. “Oh, that’s so clever and cute”, you say to yourself and you put down your glass of wine, which is almost empty, and you reach for the keyboard. You’ve thought up an equally clever response to these incredibly urbane witticisms and you can’t wait to start tapping it out and clicking “Post”. Here’s my advice – Don’t do it! Step away from the keyboard – now! The internet breeds familiarity and inebriation emulates confidence. The next day when you log back on and see what you’ve written in the light of day – and I’m not saying I’ve done this …yet – you’re going to slap yourself on the forehead and wish someone had physically held your arms behind your back until you came back to your senses. Preferably not your spouse. Seriously.
Posting pictures on Facebook is better than trying to find where you put your old photo albums and now, they’re easier to share. However, I find myself looking at people’s pictures who I don’t even know – not in a creepy way, but appreciatively – “awww…such a cute baby” – like that. I also have noticed that a lot of people I know (and yes, some I don’t know) do a lot of traveling, skiing and boating.
This is one of the best things about Facebook: a box on the right side of the screen lists all of your friends’ upcoming birthdays. It’s awesome! You click on their name, it brings up their page and right at the top is a blank box that says, “Write something”. Instant birthday greetings! I haven’t remembered birthdays with this regularity since I managed the Crown Shop Hallmark store in Austin, Texas almost 30 years ago.
All the other stuff…Drinking, Green Patches, Beads, Snowballs and Willy’s Sweet Shop
Why would anyone throw a sack of beads at me? It sounds like it might hurt. Is the intent to be harmful? Or playful? I wouldn’t know because when I click on those ambiguous requests I choose the button that says “Ignore”. Not to be mean, mind you. Sometimes I’ll play and accept that chocolate martini or paradise plant or bag of hammers. But then you have to agree to let that particular application pull out more information about you, your friends, your life than I am comfortable with. So even if I occasionally click “Accept”, like for candy or a good cause (wow, that’s redundant), I end up getting nervous about the warnings – like those medication ads, you know? “Side effects may include nausea, irritability, weight gain, tremors, a sudden urge to gamble or instant death”. I end with Ignore on most of those, too. I’m also unsure about Poking someone. Is it appropriate? I just don’t know.
My son recently admonished me about spending too much time on Facebook (how would he know – he’s the one who refused my friend request!) It’s true; I do log on every day. And lately, one of my “friends” commented on his Status update that he “wants more face, less book”. My foray into anthropological research has shown me this at least: Whether you log on to throw stuff at your friends, post pictures so your distant cousins can catch up with your family or check out what your kids are doing, a little “Face” time works for this fifty-something.