Periodically, one of my peers urges me to take the plunge and jump into the deep end of social networking, but I resolutely refuse. Call it a personal idiosyncrasy. Call it stubbornness. You might even call it a fast. I believe to the marrow of my bones that Facebook is an inappropriate sport for me. I’m not going to do it, and no one can make me. This is not a judgment on others my age. But I do have a theory that the older we get, the less business we have trolling around there.
This theory is supported by anecdotal evidence gathered through my job. I hear about family feuds among the gray-haired set, fueled by trash-talking each other on Facebook. (Not exactly a sterling example for the youngsters.) And really old people, when sufficiently lonely, can stir up quite a commotion of drama and attention with just a few pecks on the keyboard.
Here’s the worst example, so far. One night, eight members of a family called me, individually, at five to twenty-minute intervals, stressing the importance of NOT telling Grammy that Pawpaw had died. None of them had any trouble extracting a promise of silence from me. I wanted sleep in the worst way, and calling Grammy was not on my to-do list at 3 a.m. The calls were strange, but sleep deprivation left me completely devoid of curiosity.
Finally, the eighth caller explained the urgency of their plea. Grammy had written on her Facebook page, “When Pawpaw dies, I’m going to kill myself.” Suicidal ideation is always to be taken seriously, but a Facebook threat from an octogenarian? It’s just unseemly. (I dutifully alerted the social worker, and Grammy took the news much better than expected in the light of the next day.)
My point is, for old people, Facebook can feel like a diary, exposing things to the universe that are best left unexposed. As a hermit, I’m naturally disinclined to share every little thought that rattles around in my head, so that’s not such a risk for me. But as I get older, who knows? And once I’m on Facebook, what would ever entice me to exit gracefully? I’m guessing it’s like crack cocaine.
All that aside, what really motivates me to opt out is my grown children. If I sent them a friend request, they would have no choice but to accept. How do you refuse a friend request from your own mother? I know that there are levels of privacy, but I also know myself. The temptation to stalk my children would be nearly irresistible. As much as I would love to know every detail of their lives, I am happy with what they choose to share with me, when they want to share it.
Of course, there are times when I worry. When it progresses to frantic conjuring of worst case scenarios, I have my ways of gathering intel. If one of my boys doesn’t respond to a text within a reasonable amount of time, in the twenty-four to forty-eight hour range, all I have to do is call my daughter. She can always determine proof of life based on their last Facebook posting. This may be stalking by proxy, but my hands are clean.