We older folk spend an inordinate amount of time in our latter days running to keep up with technology, new social acceptances and the multitudinous current events around us. It’s absolutely mind-boggling how fast all those things change.
Those of us still able keep up mentally, socially and with the changing morality, do pretty well. But, sometimes, something comes along that’s surprising. I had such an experience the other day when I ran afoul of someone on Facebook. Interesting, speaking of change. Spellcheck doesn’t recognize Facebook. Spellcheck, either, for that matter.
We’re not habitual Facebook users at our house. We check in periodically. We sometimes find something interesting or humourous to pass along. We learn what’s going on in someone else’s life. We’re exposed to strangers who may - or may not - have something interesting to contribute. We see - and skip over - a lot of material not suitable for mixed company. These “SECOND THOUGHTS” ramblings are often re-posted there. We sometimes are brought up short by an unexpected response to something we’ve posted. That’s where my new experience came in.
First, some background. I’ve never given much deep thought to Zuckerberg’s electronic gossip line. After learning its invention years ago was pretty much to improve ways college students “hook up,” I sort of accepted its expanded role in most people’s lives as just another technological convenience. Or, inconvenience, as the case may be.
Our household use of Facebook is done without publishing a great deal of personal information about either of us. No need for the exposure. Those in our lives who need access - or have interest in such information - already have it. Those who don’t - don’t. We get very little spam. We try to be careful what we post.
But, I’ve got to admit, I let my guard down with Facebook. It sneaked up on me. Shortly after initiating my page, I got “friend” requests from lots of folks we’ve known over the years. We found old school names we hadn’t thought of in 40-50 years - found some USAF buddies long lost - even a forgotten family member or two. Quite an amazing experience for oldtimers who - like all oldtimers - spend considerable time wondering where so-and-so is now or whatever happened to cousin Grace or how an old house you lived in 35 years ago looks now. We suddenly got answers to all of that. And a lot more!
So, in the early period, Facebook seemed harmless enough and brought with it contacts that had been lost or forgotten. It sort of oozed into our consciousness and daily routine. Until a week or so ago it didn’t get much more thought than any other daily exercise. Then I got brought up short.
The insidious thing - and I now know as a hidden danger about Facebook - is it keeps growing. Usually for two reasons. First, old familiar names keep cropping up. They want to be part of the communication. Harmless enough. Except people change. Not having conversed in 30-40 years, you don’t really know that person anymore. He/she is just a “voice from the past.” You really may not know that person as he/she is today.
The second reason/danger - at least in my case - is that “friends of friends” keep showing up. If Cousin Lucy has a friend she stays in contact with, that friend of Cousin Lucy may want in on the conversation, too. So she slides into the list of contacts. No big deal.
Except. You don’t know that “friend.” You don’t know the personality - what makes him/ her laugh or cry - what, if anything, you may have in common - whether you’d like her or find her a bore - whether she’s a boozer, religious, on drugs, likes/hates kids, likes/hates animals, has a compatible personality or would walk over you on the street. A stranger. But a stranger you now “talk” to.
This last part - last danger - is what I walked into. And got gobsmacked.
Those who really know me know I love satire. I love puns and wordsmithing and Groucho Marx-style verbal sparring. My humor tends to be on the pointed side. Some would say occasionally sarcastic or caustic. Comes from many years in the media covering plane crashes, car wrecks, seeing lots and lots of bodies on the crime beat. And dealing with too many politicians. Without a sharpened sense of humor, you don’t last.
Whatever. Someone I hadn’t seen in 30 years or more - and whom I didn’t know well even then - posted something which brought wide personal praise. About 20 wonderful, positive responses. I, on the other hand, reverted to form and humorously - at least I thought so - humorously inserted a small verbal pin prick.
Not good! The immediate response pounded me. And, when I attempted to apologize, I was instantly electronically informed, “See, there you go again!” I guess we’ve “unfriended.” Maybe rightly. Maybe wrongly.
This will probably happen again. And you may run into something just as painful, too. Facebook is a good way to communicate with friends. I mean FRIENDS - people you know well-enough to appreciate their sensibilities, their likes and dislikes. And their tolerance level for all sorts of things. I didn’t know those things about my sensitive “friend” of three decades ago and stepped right in it.
So, my advice is this. Be careful out there. “Friending” and “unfriending” don’t really mean what they say. At least not on Facebook. It can actually be a minefield of people who don’t know you, don’t have other contacts with you, who’ve changed a lot since your last personal encounter, who don’t realize how much you’ve changed, who talk one way but react another or just don’t understand your sense of humor.
Be careful. Be VERY CAREFUL. When someone on your Facebook page asks for your opinion and you give it - be prepared to be unfriended. Friend.