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Op-ed column: Mysteries of Facebook yield slowly, but a virtual friend is still a friend

Op-ed column: Mysteries of Facebook yield slowly, but a virtual friend is still a friend

Recently I’ve been finding messages on my e-mail saying that so-and-so would “like to be my friend.”

Recently I’ve been finding messages on my e-mail saying that so-and-so would “like to be my friend.” When I click on the name, no message comes up — just an invitation for me to join Facebook.

What’s wrong with e-mail, I wonder? It had served well to communicate with children, grandchildren and old friends for a long time. Furthermore, these messages were mostly from people I’d always secretly considered my “friends.” Was the feeling not mutual?

A woman’s heart is touched by such a statement, however. So taking a deep breath, I decided to sign myself up for Facebook. The first thing the chummy “Facebook Team” requested was a photo. I’m well beyond the age when anyone would willingly pose for a photo, so I declined that request. Parenthetically, I am up on the fact that photos can miraculously be taken with cellphones (a gadget I don’t own,) and transmitted onto almost anything from T-shirts to birthday cakes.

My eldest son recently sent me our family’s baby pictures which he had scanned from old slides onto CDs. Delighted, I viewed them on my computer and then asked if he could possibly have 8x10 prints made of several that I liked. As in the old days, I wanted to frame them to display in the living room. He thoughtfully complied. I didn’t feel that I could ask guests to sit at my computer to watch a family slide show.

Just the facts

But I digress. Continuing my pursuit of Facebook, I filled in a few facts but declined to answer some intrusive questions as to my age, my religion and my political preferences. I did, however, write a short, but clever, essay about things I like to do. It fell far short of anything salacious (I read the horror stories) but I thought it might appeal to octogenarians of either sex who like the quiet sports (walking and gardening in my case) and who welcome peaceful solitude. I also enjoy reading in companionable quiet (with or without a friend) at the end of the day.

I am not a complete technophobe. My computer is valuable to me as a word processor (saving, deleting, moving text around and printing). I also enjoy using e-mail, and I often delve into the Internet for obscure information not available to me in my few reference books, “Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations,” anthologies and so forth. I have always been aware that with the computer, I only touch the tip of an unfathomable resource, like oil or gas under the sea. It’s like having an oracle in your living room and being unable to communicate with him/her.

Elusive passwords

Where do I stand right now with Facebook? I created a new password, but there’s something about passwords that eludes me. Almost every password I dream up elicits a terse announcement that the one selected is not an option. I try to keep a list of valid passwords I’ve used in the past in a little notebook, but I keep losing the notebooks. At one point, the “Facebook Team” asked me to formulate a brief question and answer that, I presume, would help identify me but I forgot to write it down.

I am guarding with my life a communication I received from the “Gmail Team” congratulating me on my new gmail address. I am warned to keep this for my records as it contains an “important verification code” that I might need. This code consists of 26 characters. At the end of the memo, I am instructed that if I didn’t create this gmail address and don’t recognize this email, I should visit a 53-character address. Neither proved helpful. Even so, I preserved this disturbing bit of advice in a plastic sleeve.

Then one day, I received a prompt that said my eldest son had written on my Facebook Wall. I didn’t know that such a wall existed but I was able to open this message and this one only. How did that happen? Was it just an anomaly that sometimes happens out there in the ether waves? You see what an enigma this whole Facebook world is to me?

Reaching out

I still have enough of the 19th and 20th century values in my blood that if someone says they want me for a friend, I can’t turn a blind eye or a deaf ear. I must reach them somehow; I just haven’t figured out how. Emma, Rae and Kate, my three daughters-in-law, one living in the South and one on each coast, and my own daughter who lives in my neighborhood, are among those who are trying to keep me in the loop and I hope they will not give up.

One thing I have vowed, however, is that I won’t be lured into “twittering.” That sounds like too frivolous an occupation for one of my serious bent — something done by birds and too closely akin to “dithering.”

Ruth Peterson lives in Niskayuna. The Gazette encourages readers to submit material on local issues for the Sunday Opinion section.

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