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Advanced Facebook for Old People: 2014 Edition
February 3, 2014 - Diane Laney Fitzpatrick
Things are changing rapidly in Facebook world, and the monster is almost unrecognizable to what was first opened up to old people in 2008. Remember Shrute Bucks? Pieces of Flair? Remember pre-set status updates? "Diane is at home." "Diane is at work. When we were finally secure enough to post our own sentences, we still referred to ourselves in the third-person. Diane is making enchiladas and rice for dinner. Diane is cleaning bathrooms. Diane is awake. Coffee!
Good grief. No wonder I only had seven friends and not a single comment in nine months.
In a little over five years, the over-40 crowd went from dipping our toes bravely into the Facebook waters, weaving around the young girls in bikinis, beer pong, and teen rebellion comedies, to running the whole social media like a mid-year PTA meeting. Now the young people have to navigate around us, at least the few who are still around. Last week I used the words "meme" and "hashtag" in the same conversation, while sending someone a Starbucks gift card for their Facebook birthday on my phone. And I wasn't embarrassed at all.
We've come a long way, babies.
My previous advice to oldsters on Facebook covered The Difference Between Unfriending and Blocking (except I called it Defriending . . . idiot . . .), There are No Phones at Facebook, Thumbs Up for E-Thank-You Notes, and Too Much Alcohol + Your Laptop = Trouble.
I have not yet been able to convince Facebook HQ to hire me as Old Person liaison, even though I live so close to the campus. That fancy Facebook employee bus practically goes right past my house on its way to pick up the other techies. I'd love to jump right on in. But they're ignoring me and my skills, so I'm left with this.
The days of shame are over
It's now absolutely OK to openly admit that Facebook rules your life. It's perfectly acceptable to take your laptop into the bathroom with you and post stuff while you're on the can. (Just don't post stuff about you being on the can. You don't need to tell us that you're doing it. It's understood.)
It's just fine to post on Facebook all the livelong day on your phone. You don't have to lie anymore and say that you're checking an email from your doctor about test results. Being obsessed with Facebook doesn't make you a loser with no real friends. Just because you do it, doesn't mean it's all you have. Despite all those preachy admonishments, you don't have to turn off the laptop and go out into nature and enjoy life. You can sit on your ass and like, comment, share and post until your fingers are bloody stumps. No matter how attached you are to social media, it's better than people who have been glued to bad daytime TV for years.
If you insist on opening a Facebook account for your dog, proceed with caution
Getting your dog a Facebook page is full of pitfalls. I only know a couple people who do it well. The others make their dogs sound like a dumbed-down Underdog. My friend Tom started a page for his dog Bella Yip and did such a great job with it, I felt like I knew that little puggle and her darling, know-it-all personality. Then Tom got a second dog, a German Shepherd named Corleone and added him to Bella's Facebook page. I was tense about a Bella N Corly combined account. I worried that Bella would be overshadowed by the big dog. But it turned out great: Corly is quiet and lets Bella run the page. Corly agrees to some closeups of his huge nose but lets Bella do all the yipping.
Yes, I know I'm talking as if Tom turns on the computer and leaves for work and his two dogs go on Facebook. Unless you can accomplish that, don't get your dog a Facebook page.
Speaking of pets on Facebook . . .
If your pet dies, Facebook is the best place for you to be. There are approximately a bunch of memes about the Rainbow Bridge, fuzzy-edged photos of yellow labs with sad eyes and the letters R I P in a fancy script, and other ready-made posts about how empty your life will now be without your pet.
Facebookians are just waiting for your pet to die so they can express their sympathy. Saying the right thing to a mourning pet owner is surprisingly more easy than when a human dies. And Facebook, being the dog- and cat-friendly place that it is, is the perfect set-up for a giant e-group hug.
On the other hand, watch your phrasing. If your dog loves the snow and you get 6-8 inches of the white stuff, don't post a photo of your dog with the comment "She's in heaven now." You'll have sympathy e-cards and prayers and thoughts to beat the band. No matter how quickly you remove the post or how many times you clarify, people will still think of you as the person whose dog died.
Your Other Mailbox
Facebook changes every day. And because of the screaming and gnashing of teeth from unhappy customers whenever a blue button is changed to green, Facebook doesn't announce changes anymore. They just sneak them in slowly and in small chunks, so you won't notice.
This is how the Other mailbox came to be. A lot of people don't even know about the Other mailbox, but if you look around, you'll find it. There will probably be some mail in there. Mail from people who are not your Facebook friends will go in there. Some valid emails will mistakenly go in there. This is where your Nigerian prince will contact you. Also any barrister from Togo who has been retained to contact everyone with your husband's last name, letting you know that a rich relative has just died. All the mail in Other start out "Hello my lady."
Facebook is like a personal pan pizza. Eat it politely.
Don't get bent out of shape that you don't get Trending, or you don't know what they did with Birthdays, or you can't tell the ads from the sponsored posts from your friends' posts because you can't remember who you friended that night you were home with a bottle of wine and fast wi-fi. You're not alone. There's so much going on over at Facebook, you can't possibly understand everything, let alone do anything with all of it.
Use Facebook however you want. Make it your celebrity news source, make it your church, make it your game arcade. But don't get all snarky with those who don't do it like you do it. There are only a couple of unspoken - yet important - Facebook rules and one of them is: Do whatever you want on your own page but when you're in someone else's house, show some respect. Argue until you're red in the face - or blue. Quote your favorite 19th century authors - or Weekend at Bernie's. Feel free to toss around your conspiracy theories. But before you let loose any personal insults, look around: If you're in your house let your freak flag fly. But if you're on someone else's property, act your age.
Remember, we were invited to Facebook to class up the joint.
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Diane Laney Fitzpatrick is the author of Home Sweet Homes: How Bundt Cakes, Bubble Wrap, and My Accent Helped Me Survive Nine Moves. Her Just Humor Me column runs here and on her website at www.DianeLaneyFitzpatrick.com.
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