I was in my early 60’s when computers became a must have
item and I considered not getting one.
After 70, computer use should be confined to Googling, word processing, bill paying, email, the occasional YouTube spot, Talking Points Memo (if you’re liberal) and The Drudge Report (if you’re easily led astray). MySpace, Facebook or any other place inhabited by teens and young singles is not a world where we belong.
So when my ex-wife sent an email asking me to be her Facebook friend, I felt slightly uneasy. Betty and I were married for 5 years in the 70’s and though no marriage ends happily, ours did amicably, and we have been casually in contact over the years. Being invited to be Betty’s Facebook friend felt like making some kind of deeper commitment, especially since I’m happily remarried. Just what is a Facebook friend? What are my responsibilities? Are there legal implications?
With some trepidation I opened the page and there was Betty, smiling out at me expectantly, with two boxes next to her picture, confirm or reject. It seemed like a harsh choice, so even though I didn’t want to get involved, how do you reject someone who’s smiling at you and wants to be your friend? I clicked confirm, and moved on to do a little Googling.
When I got back to my inbox, a few minutes later, there were 20 more requests for my friendship. Most from people who already knew they were my friends, but apparently that isn’t good enough any more. With each confirm, the number of new friends expanded, and within an hour I had over 50, some of whom I didn’t know, but were Facebook friends of my Facebook friends, so I couldn’t reject them. I didn’t want my friends to think their friends weren’t good enough for me.
The next time I checked my email, 10 new friends popped up, to confirm or reject, plus there were 3 messages on my Wall, whatever that was, and a reminder to check my profile page, which I had no idea existed. Before I could get there, I picked up 4 more friends and another wall message. On my profile page, I discovered a new world of choices I had no desire to make: a box with the blank figure of someone who looked like Martin Short on SNL, with the wispy hair, to be replaced by a picture of me; questions about my background that I wouldn’t answer if I were being water boarded; pictures of a dozen people I didn’t recognize who were “friends in common”, whom I could add as mine, and most irritating of all, a space to answer the question, “What are you doing right now?” in which I typed, “hating Facebook”.
One on my Wall messages was from my daughter, who I had spoken to 10 minutes earlier, telling me she was glad I was on Facebook, which she already told me during our phone conversation, but I guess this made it official. Two were from friends of hers, also welcoming me, and one from Betty, apologizing for getting me involved in the whole thing. Out of obligation I responded to the Wall messages, which of course led to responses to my response. New friends and messages were pilling up to the point that I was afraid to leave my computer, concerned it might crash from an overload of friends and wall messages. Facebook is like the Ebola virus - once you’re exposed, it consumes your time instead of your flesh.
Since my daughter loved it so much, I checked her page to see why. She has 800 friends and what she was “doing right now” was “drying my hair”. Checking what some other friends were “doing right now”, I came across; “watching a rerun of Seinfeld in my underwear”; “Eating left over lasagna”; “looking for a clean pair of sox”; “waiting to get my 2000th friend”; and finally, “getting a colonoscopy”, sent from his Blackberry. I immediately responded to “What are you doing right now?” by typing in “leaving Facebook forever”.