Thursday, July 9, 2009

57 Friends for 57 Years? or I Love Facebook

I had a great idea. On my 57th birthday, I would have 57 friends on Facebook.

Let me start again, I had a stupid idea. Most people I know don’t really want to have conversations about Facebook.

My kids can’t understand why Facebook interests me so much. My son contends that it was never meant for people my age and baby boomers don’t know how to use it correctly, or rather, we just shouldn’t be using it. He has a point. It was invented for college kids to network. He’s also blocked me from his wall, and I don’t really mind. I don’t use Facebook to spy on my kids.

What I do use it for—well, I’m just able to keep up with people. I’m pretty new to it, and most of my friends aren’t on it yet. They claim it’s too time consuming and it has no purpose, blah, blah. But the resistance is eroding. In the past two weeks I’ve heard from several high school friends that I haven’t seen for years, people I really care about and was close to. (This is in direct contrast the Facebook list of people from my high school graduating class whom I can’t place or remember and I’m sure I never knew. Either I wasn’t as popular as I remember, or dementia is setting in. Help! The high school neurons in my brain are dying!) I also think he’s right that people my age are not using Facebook to its fullest. Basically, for many people I know it’s like another form of email.

But I like the nearly daily wacky communications I have with a neighbor. I could go down the block and knock on her door. I do that some times, actually. But via Facebook we send each other links and photos of our plants. Yes, boring, but not very different from people whose status updates are conversations about who is being mean to whom in the office and who take quiz after quiz after quiz and post the results. (OK, I take quizzes too. I did very well on the “How Massachusetts Are You?” one.)

I’m also enjoying pictures of the vintage hats that a friend has taken to posting. I love my friend’s 13-year-old daughter’s posts: She’s taken a quiz that shows she’s “totally dateable,” another that indicates she has the maturity of a 20-year-old (“not true,” she comments. “No, really, true,” I think), and she took the Disney Princess quiz and came out as “Cinderella.” (I did too. We’ve all taken the Disney Princess quiz.) I liked when my cousin’s son did a post-college three week tour of Europe, 14 countries in 21 days or something, because I got to say each day to my husband or friends, “Can you believe Dan spent just one day in Brussels?” Or Rome or Naples or wherever. I had great conversation fodder for three weeks because the idea of traveling like that boggled my mind. My kids thought my fixation on this was strange.

Today via Facebook I found out that it is raining in Boston and that a friend’s cat is sick. The weather has been great in Israel and very warm in LA. The East Coast weather is awful, everyone is complaining, but I don’t need Facebook to know that.

I love Facebook. I think it’s one of the greatest things ever invented and I don’t care if it was meant for 18-year-olds originally. It’s so completely perfect for Baby Boomers, too, all of us in Generation B-Squared who are trying to stay connected or reconnect, for those of use who are trying to figure out what friendship means at this stage of our lives, for those of us learning to navigate being parents of adults.

So 57 friends for 57 years? Not that important. I already blocked some people because they use Twitter for their jobs, which feeds into their Facebook accounts, which means I got continual email notifications about medical conferences or books to read—information which doesn’t interest me. I am interested in them and their jobs, so I wish there were a way to remedy this. I have even contacted Facebook. No answer. (I’m told that if I Tweet this, I’m likely to get Facebook to notice. Nice irony.) So on the one hand, right now I have more information than I can handle. Yet I want more information, too. I want everyone I know to be on Facebook sharing.

I wonder about people with 647 or 2,289 friends on Facebook. I’m still at a point where I can look at my friend list and I know all the people and speak to them in person. I also can say, “I’m not a Facebook friend with her (or him).” I mean, I know my Facebook friends. They aren’t people I’ve met in bars or friends of friends of friends who did a friend request. People with lots of Facebook friends must either use the “hide” tool a lot, learn to do very quick update readings, or not really read anything beyond their own wall.

I’d love to figure this all out. Maybe I should aim for 5800 friends for my 58th birthday.

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