I’M A GRANDMA: SHOULD I JOIN FACEBOOK?
Should grannies join Facebook? According to what I’ve heard, yes. Should I join Facebook? I’m not so sure.
I saw a TV news story and read a couple of articles recently about “Facebook for Grandma” and how this and similar social networking sites can give senior citizens a “cognitive boost.” A study from the University of Arizona found that people older than 65 can benefit from feeling more socially connected and learning new Internet skills. They performed about 25 percent better on a function known in the psychology world as “updating”, or being able to continuously monitor and quickly add or delete the contents of their working memory.
I’m not 65 yet, but I AM a grandma now. There are days I have a kid in each ear saying “Grandma! Grandma!” So would it behoove me to enhance my “updating” skills by joining a social site? Sometimes I think it would be fun. I did get a Facebook account several years ago—not using my real name—just to see what it was all about, but I never really figured out how to work it. For some reason I don’t find that site very user-friendly. And then it surprised and annoyed me by sending out invites to everyone in my address book! After a few months I deleted it and didn’t return again until earlier this year when I made another account with a fake name and making sure no address book was connected to it. I still am not comfortable with using it (although I haven’t really taken the time to learn it), but I did manage to poke around just to investigate who all was on it and who was not.
And it seems MOST people are on it! I used my cognitive skills to dig deep into the recesses of my memory and looked up all kinds of people, from old school chums to former neighbors and teachers and co-workers and church friends and even high school pen pals. In most cases I had no trouble finding these old faces, and it has been fun and interesting to see what people I haven’t seen in years have been up to and how they’ve changed. Most current friends and relatives are on this site as well. Wow, I feel so out of the loop!
Of course, nobody knows I have found them, and I haven’t befriended anybody with my incognito profile. But I’m just wondering if I should come out and use my real name in case someone is looking for me, and then actually connect with others as well. But then I have thoughts of “friending” someone and imagining them saying, “Oh yeah, you were that wimpy little nobody in high school” or worse yet not remembering me at all.
But I think most people don’t really say much on Facebook, at least not the ones I have found and especially in my age group. They have a profile picture and a little bit about themselves and that’s it—just enough to let you know they are there. This is probably what I would do, too—friend someone not necessarily to chat away but just to say, “Hey, I see you’re still alive and so am I,” or “It was nice knowing you in third grade, and yep, we’re both still here on the planet.” And I know many people use it to keep in touch with long-distance family and friends, post pictures of kids, etc., but I really don’t have anyone that fits that category, or if I do, our annual Christmas newsletter does the job.
But what prevents me from actually joining Facebook is being afraid of what I might see. I’ve already found out things about people that I do NOT want to know, and I come across sites like breweries and wineries and marijuana-related things without even trying. It’s just like Yahoo and YouTube. I never go actively searching for anything like this; it all seems to come my way no matter how much I try to avoid it. Just for fun I typed in my actual name in Facebook and up comes a pot smoker! And she had “liked” some marijuana sites (recipes with cannabis, etc.), and so then I find there are pot sites on Facebook, which I didn’t know before, and I want to chastise the heck out of them. Or I find someone I knew in high school and they are pictured at a dinner party or wedding with champagne, or I see that they “liked” some brewery or bar that I didn’t know existed, and I have to sit on my hands to keep from writing to them and the bar and giving them a lecture about the evils of alcohol.
Another example: we have a picture of a cute little girl, Angie, in our photo album that was taken with our baby son in the early 80’s. She lived in our apartment complex and she and her sister would often come out and play with him, which I really appreciated at the time. I had no trouble finding her on Facebook. It says she has a wonderful husband and two darling daughters. Awww, how nice. Then I see she has a poem about how good beer is, uses profanity, and has pictures of herself at some Christmas party wearing a skimpy Santa costume with fishnet stockings and holding a wine bottle. ACK!!! My first instinct is to tell her why all of this behavior is wrong, to try and get her see there is a better way to live, trying to make a difference in her life out of love and concern. And I know she’d probably write back saying, “Who the h*ll are YOU, lady?? F*CK off!!!” Yep, it would have been better if I had never looked her up at all. Now every time I see that picture of sweet little Angie, I will think of her like that.
Of course I wouldn’t say anything like this to her if we met in real life. And the same goes for all the other people I would find on this site. I wouldn’t normally be with them at the parties or cooking with marijuana. I wouldn’t even know these things. That’s one of the drawbacks of the Internet. It’s like peaking into someone’s personal diary or photo album.
And this is why I hesitate to join Facebook. My husband advises against it. “No good can come of it,” he says. Sigh. He’s not on the site and doesn’t care to be. But part of me still wants to join and connect with at least SOME people! If only to say “Hey, it’s good to know we’re both still alive!” And I feel like I should do it sooner rather than later, before it gets too late. I’m not getting any younger and neither are any of my old classmates and others from my past!
And so the question remains: Is Cindybin ready for Facebook? Or is Facebook ready for Cindybin? We may never know.