I wrote this in the Dark Ages…in internet years. Facebook sure ain’t what it used to be. Now even my 92-year old uncle is on. This was a post on AgingHipsters, the Baby Boomer Homepage, of which I was co-founder.
Recently my college-bound son invited me to be his friend on Facebook. Whether this was a temporary lapse into cuteness, sentimentality, or mischief, even he isn’t sure. But, like the intrepid internet pioneer I am, I said “golly, sure thing” and registered. Originally intended as the private domain of college kids with .edu addresses, Facebook now allows pretty much anyone to register.
Little did I know what I would face as the Oldest Living Human on Facebook. But first the good stuff. A parent with less-than-pure intentions could, for example, post embarrassing comments on a child’s ‘wall.’ While their friends are posting quick comments in kid-code, you could, maybe, write “hugs and kisses from mommy.” Not that you would, but you could. Then you could upload that cute picture of little Bobby buck-naked in the wading pool when he was 2. Not that you would.
If you have a pretty good rapport with your kid’s friends, some of them may even invite you to be a friend, which spares you the humiliation of having only one or two friends on your profile. Is this beginning to remind anyone of choosing up teams for grade-school kickball? I anxiously check each day (OK, each hour) to see if anyone has picked me.
Another good thing is that you can occasionally (Ok every hour) look at your kid’s profile–see who his new friends are, what groups he’s joined, what new pictures are up. You might even learn where the hell he was till 4:00 am last Friday. Do this at your own risk–there’s such a thing as too much information.
And if you use Facebook as it was probably intended, it’s a pretty good place to set up a group if you’re trying to hook up with old camp friends or everyone in your bowling league, for example.
But, there are downsides to being the O.L.H. on Facebook. Take this group I came across: “EWW–Why Do Old People Have Facebook?”
To paraphrase Sally Field, ‘they hate us, they really hate us.” Actually, this group is pretty tame compared to some of the others that really do seem to hate us. But hey, we’re 75 million boomers, we’re used to it.
Then there are the warm-but-snarky messages from kid’s friends or friends’ kids. The “what-the-hell-are-YOU-doing-here-but-since-you-are-this-is-so-cute” notes. Mostly they beg me not to tell their parents how to do it. I duly promise to live by a don’t ask/don’t tell policy and to misdirect any other adults trying to sign on.
What none of these kids seem to know is that we were the original social networkers. Does anyone remember The Well? Started by the folks who brought us the Whole Earth Catalog, it’s been online since 1985. These kids weren’t born yet. If you were really geeky, you could open a Terminal connection to someone else’s computer and do a caveman-style version of chat. Then we had Prodigy and AOL. In fact, AgingHipsters got its start in the Baby Boomer Conference Room on AOL. I believe my son was five at the time. After AOL, some of the more adventurous boomers moved on to IRC. It was a little klutzy, but when has pioneering life ever been easy?
So there I am, looking a little foolish, on Facebook. My friends’ list has grown by vast numbers to…6. But, we boomers have a long history of both adaptation and innovation. I will find ways to make their Facebook my Facebook. I’ve started an alumni group for my summer camp, Camp Vega–so far we only have 3 members, but I’m confident other O.L.H.s will find their way there. All they’ll need is a decoder ring, some age-blindness, and a little chutzpah.