Monthly Archives: December 2015

Is Facebook suitable for Octogenarians?

This is me and my dad.

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My dad has an extraordinary aptitude for making friends in the most unlikely of situations.

A few years ago, on the terrace of São Jorge Castle in Lisbon, he got chatting to another tourist. Within minutes he had discovered that this man knew Dad’s family from way back, and was able to tell him the name of someone who knew the village in Lithuania from which my father’s ancestors originated.

My dad had been trying to find this all his life, without success. One chance encounter and the mystery was solved.

On a more mundane level, my dad managed to get so friendly with someone recently, while waiting outside the Apple Store in Brent Cross for it to open, that they ended up exchanging phone numbers.

Who else makes friends while out shopping? It’s ridiculous.

The thing is, though, he likes connecting with real people in the real world – not with profile pictures on a social media screen.

So we were all quite surprised when, the other day, he announced his intention to open a Facebook account. He explained that friends kept emailing him my Facebook posts, so he figured he may as well read them for himself.

I showed him how to open an account (though in fact he is extremely computer-literate). My family then had a spread bet on how long it would take him to announce he was going to leave Facebook again. I gave it three days, My oldest child suggested a week, and my husband thought by Christmas.

I was spot on.

“I’ve been inundated with friend requests!” my dad said. “I don’t like it at all!”

He has sent me his reasons for quitting, and here they are:

Dear Susan,

As you will continue to be in contact with Mark Zuckerberg I would be grateful if you would put this message on Facebook. Please advise Mr Zuckerberg that after only three days I am regretfully resigning from his organisation. I hope that this will not impact too adversely on his business and I do wish him every future success, even without my participation.

I also have a message for my family and friends, many of whom have instantly requested to be associated with me on Facebook. My refusal does not reflect any lack of affection for them and I will love them all as in the past.

You may wonder what has motivated this decision. It is not a matter of technology as I have no difficulty in understanding electronics and computers. It is a question of age. I am now eighty-one and two-thirds and this is exactly the point at which one becomes incompatible with this lifestyle.

I do like to have lots of friends, but one at a time in a predictable sequence, and without random comments from their friends and their friends’ friends ad infinitum.

I am very fond of looking at photographs but these need to be arranged in an album after due thought and perused methodically. Similarly I like videos and films, especially when listed in the Radio Times and watched at the appointed hour. Programmes on the wireless are also very much enjoyed.

So please ask everyone I know to continue to keep in touch on a regular basis. Pigeon post or the electric telegraph is preferred, alternatively by Royal Mail, and as a last resort by email.

Love Dad

So if you want to contact my dad, just follow his instructions. And if you’re not real-life friends with him yet, don’t fret – you probably will be soon.

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Christmas Kitsch and Family Arguments

Every year on 1 December, with great ceremony, we bring this creature out of the cupboard.

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We are Jewish but this doesn’t prevent us from embracing the spirit of Christmas. And what better way to do so than with a reindeer dressed up as Santa Claus who, when you squeeze its hoof, bobs about playing Santa Claus is Coming to Town?

Every year, as soon as it emerges, the same argument starts: is it a moose or a reindeer? Debating this point is at least as important as actually playing with it in the first place.

We are divided into two factions, with the older children on my husband Anthony’s side (in the moose camp) and the four-year-old supporting me (advocate of the reindeer theory).

Anthony argues that it’s a moose because it looks like a moose. It has a squishy flat nose like a moose, not a pointy one like a reindeer.

But obviously, it is a reindeer. Look at it. It has antlers. It has a Santa costume. It plays Santa Claus is Coming to Town.

I come from a family of scientists and, even though I’m not one myself, I’m a fervent supporter of evidence-based research and rational thinking.

But this isn’t a scientific question, and therefore an objective empirical approach is inappropriate. It’s all about context.

My late father-in-law, the excellent Bryan Reuben, Emeritus Professor of Chemical Technology, was a keen and very good cook. He had a baking tray in his house that he once mentioned had been used by his children, when they were small, to hold frogspawn.

I expressed concern over the fact that he was still cooking with a tray that had been formerly used to hatch tadpoles. (I don’t think I actually said ‘Bleeeuurrgghh!’ because I wouldn’t have been so rude – but that was the general gist.)

He said that the tray had been thoroughly sterilised and any amphibian organisms definitively extinguished many years ago. I replied that I completely understood that – but that it was the idea that it had been used to hold frogspawn that I found revolting. The fact that if you examined the tray under a microscope you would find no trace of its former use was simply neither here nor there.

Similarly, I don’t care how much, objectively, our jazz-playing reindeer looks like a moose. It’s obviously supposed to be a reindeer, and therefore it is a reindeer.

I canvassed opinion on the matter on Facebook and people were strongly divided.

My friend Gemma did have this key insight, though: ‘It could be a moose. They are great saxophonists. Reindeer are usually percussionists.’

Be that as it may, I feel the matter is finally closed.  I have discovered a hitherto unseen label on the reindeer’s back:

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Anthony has implied that I may have planted this message. I can’t believe he imagines that I’m so lacking in integrity and moral rectitude that I would be prepared to fake something of this nature.

Happy Christmoose.

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Does your family like arguing for the enjoyment of it? And if so, what about?

If you enjoyed this post and want more of the same kind of nonsense, you can:

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