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Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Facebook for Fifty and Over

As Facebook claws its way to the top spot in our list of things we love, more and more people my age are succumbing. Almost every day, someone from my demographic gets a Facebook page (That would be the demographic Old Person.)

Because its been on a high-speed growth spurt since it was created, Facebook is not easy to pick up, especially for those of us 50 and older. (We have a hard time learning languages and musical instruments, too, remember.) I think some lessons are in order just to save us from embarrassment. I’ve convinced my kids and their high school and college friends that I’m hip enough to be their friend, but if you keep jabbering on about the ‘70s, you’re going to creep everybody out and give us all a bad name.

Being on Facebook as a 50+ is a privilege and not a right. If you’ve been on Facebook for more than a month and you’re still:
  •  Marveling/bragging about it
  •  Poking people
  •  Complaining about the changes, as if you were an expert in the old Facebook
  •  Playing Farmville
  •  Falling for “See Who Viewed My Profile” enticements
then maybe it’s time you took my tutorial. You won’t find this at your community college adult ed class offerings. It’s only available here and is free, as long as you pay it forward and pass along these tips to someone older than you. There are a lot of old people on Facebook now, but if we all work together we can get this done.

1. Stop telling people you’re on Facebook with a shake of your head and a roll of your eyes

Say the word Facebook like you would any other word. If you over-enunciate it or say it like you hardly ever say the word, you’re marking yourself as a newbie, which is actually a fogey. Practice talking about Facebook by replacing the word Facebook with annuity. “I opened an annuity account and it’s working pretty well. I’m actually having some fun with it. It took some getting used to, but now I’m status-updating like a bitch.” Say it five times and you’ll get the gist.

2. Know your levels of dissing

There are levels of getting rid of annoying people. If their status updates are irritating or go against your political philosophy to the point where you’re starting to fantasize about a verbal confrontation with him at a face-to-face class reunion that could never happen in the real world, then you probably should hide him. No need for defriending - he might convert or somehow be useful to you and a future evil plan you may come up with. You never know. Hiding doesn’t hurt anyone and doesn’t sound any alarms.

Defriending tells the person you have no use for him now or ever. This may have to be repeated several times, since many people assume they were defriended by mistake. “Facebook messed up again! I somehow dropped off your friends list!” You can blame Facebook the first time, but subsequent defriendings require a backbone.

Blocking sends up red flags all over the cyberplace. Don’t even think about it. Blocking is for paranoid schizophrenics or people in the Witness Protection Program. If you block someone there are signs, they’ll see them, as will everyone else, and you’ll be forced to explain why you’re such a dweeb. Don’t go there.

3. There are no phones in Facebook

Don’t say, “Who do I call about this?” if you’re having problems with your Facebook account. You’ll be able to hear the cringing of 20,000 20-somethings. Facebook wonks don’t use telephones. Phones are barbaric and, frankly, an insult to the technology. And just for the record, a delayed poke is not a problem worth not calling about.

4. There’s stealing friends and then there’s stealing friends

You friend someone from high school. It’s perfectly acceptable to go look at her friends and see if there’s anyone you know from back then. It’s not perfectly acceptable to send friend requests to every person on her friends list. And on the other end, if you get a friend request from someone you don’t know and you see that you have one mutual friend, dump that jackwagon fast. He’s probably a FFC (Facebook Friend Collector) and he’s a loser or he’s running for office. He will bring nothing to your Facelife except spam, annoying surveys and boob jokes. You’re too old for that.

5. Learn to let go of your desire for privacy

If you don’t want anybody and everybody to know everything about you, then stay off Facebook. But don’t join a social networking site and then complain that people are socially networking with you. Don’t obsess over who is looking for you or who is checking you out. You put those photos of the block party on your page, what did you want to happen? If - God forbid - Facebook actually ever does allow you to see who’s “stalking” you, you may be disappointed to find that it’s no one. And stop worrying about everyone knowing your phone number and email address, because Facebook, that evil genius, revealed it without your permission. Everyone already knows your phone number and your email address. That’s why you get unwanted junk mail and solicitation calls from marketers. Embrace the intrusions.

6. Don’t fall for the obvious

Be stingy with your clicks. Just because a link starts out, “OMG!” doesn’t mean you have to go see what the fuss is about. That girl who killed herself because of a picture on Facebook? Not there. The kid whose dad beat her senseless because of a text? Doesn’t exist. And why do you want to see that anyway? Have you asked yourself that? Keep it classy, people. Some general rules to follow when faced with a link that is tempting you:
  • Who’s posting it? The guy who falls for everything and who you got a chain letter from last week? Consider the source and don’t become that guy.
  •  How many exclamation points are there in it? Is it in all caps? How many words are misspelled? These are clear indicators that you should not go near that link.
  •  Is there a baby or a dog in it? You’ve probably seen it already. Move along.

7. Learning Twitter too? Calm down.

Congratulations on being a Facebooker. And it’s admirable that you figured out Twitter, too. But you don’t need to flaunt it. Those #’s and @‘s and RTs actually mean something. Learn to use them, use them correctly, and sparingly. Because it’s only a matter of time before you’ll get busted for doing it wrong.

8. Don’t be Facebook-bullied into loving things

Many older people seem to think that if you don’t copy and paste the post on Daughter’s Week, Son’s Week, Daughter-in-Law Week, Son-in-Law Week, Sisters’ Week, Stepsons’ Week, the Pledge of Allegiance, and Proud to be a Christian, that means you don’t love your family or your country or God. Nothing bad will happen if you pass on the reposting. A quick and simple like does the trick and is effective in preventing bad things from happening to you.

9. There’s nothing you can do that can’t be undone

Everything that you put onto Facebook can be taken off of Facebook. By you. If you’ve had a little too much wine and you make an inappropriate comment (see #10 below to avoid this from happening in the first place), hover your cursor on the right top corner of your post and you’ll see a dimly lit X. Hitting that will allow you to erase that transgression. There’s no need to post 12 follow-ups to correct misspellings, and clear up double meanings.

10. Don’t be inappropriate

I know this is extremely nebulous since everyone’s standards for inappropriateness are different. The Facebook Status Update Website is no help: It advises that you should not post “anything you wouldn’t stand up on a chair and shout in the pub.” I can’t imagine what could be appropriate shouted from atop a chair in a pub. You’d obviously be very drunk if you were doing that and I don’t think there’s any question that everything you said would be inappropriate. Just think about the post for a second before you hit ‘Share.’ While you’re proofreading it (hint, hint) ask yourself, “Should I be sending this out there for my coworkers/kids’ friends/dental hygienist/junior-high boy friend to see? Take a glance over to the left and look through your featured Friends in the left margin. How will they react?

And then hit ‘Share’ anyway. You’re halfway to the grave. Live a little.

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