Tag Archives: friendship

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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Do As You’re Told!

Barbecue

My friend Emma mentioned the other day that she’s very much looking forward to coming to our 10th anniversary barbecue next month. I was a bit perplexed by this because I wasn’t aware we were having one. She showed me the entry in her calendar:

“Reuben’s 10th anniversary barbecue (babysitter booked).”

What struck me later is that my first thoughts were not: “We have already been married for more than ten years, and we don’t own a barbecue”.

These were, to be fair, my second thoughts.

But my first thoughts were:

– Bloody hell – now that it’s in Emma’s diary, we’re going to have to arrange it.
– We’ll have to buy a barbecue and we can’t afford it.
– Maybe we could just use one of those disposable ones.
– Who else should we invite?
– My husband doesn’t even like barbecues.

All of this only took a few seconds and then I came to my senses. But it got me thinking about how extremely suggestible some people are (e.g. me) and how others are the exact opposite.

I’ve worked with people, for example, who completely refuse to respond to anything I ask, apparently on principle.

I say: “Please could you… [insert here completely basic function of their job]” and instead of saying, “Yes, of course!” they respond with a question of their own. The conversation then spirals into a bottomless pit of doom where I begin to consider eating my own arm.

So perhaps it’s better to be easily led like me. Although it must be said I’ve done many stupid things, just because someone has suggested them to me. Despite the fact that any kind of risk-taking makes me feel panicked and miserable, not excited and alive, I have been guilty of the following (you can surmise for yourself how old I was for each):

– ringing on doorbells and running away.
– climbing over a spiked fence to leave the grounds of a castle because it was quicker than going back to the main exit.
– stuffing rude notes through the next door neighbour’s letterbox.
– trespassing in an old lady’s garden in Siena in the middle of the night.
– drinking half a bottle of vodka in 30 minutes and spending the next few hours lying in a flowerbed throwing up.

I get that this is a pretty weedy list of misdemeanours to show for my 41 years. I expect I could dredge up some more if I thought about it really hard. But the point is that I didn’t want to do any of those things and nor did I feel good about them, either at the time or afterwards.

Anyway, the barbecue mystery was finally solved. It wasn’t “Reubens’ 10th anniversary barbecue” but “Reuben’s 10th anniversary barbecue” – i.e. the barbecue of Emma’s friend Reuben.

“You should both have paid more attention to the placement of the apostrophe,” her husband said, sternly.
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Blanking People on the Platform

Since I started commuting to work again after 10 years of freelancing from my upstairs study, I’ve become aware of a phenomenon that can most succinctly be described as, ‘a whole lot of people who are acquainted, desperately trying not to meet each other’s eye on the tube platform in the morning’.
You’re on your way to work. You’ve barely woken up. You’re looking forward to getting on the train and having half an hour to yourself where you can read, catch up on your emails, do your make-up – whatever you like. And there, on the platform, is someone you know. If your eyes meet, you’ll have to chat. And the worst of it is, not only do you not want that – but you know perfectly well they don’t want it either. And there’s absolutely nothing either of you can do about it.
I’ve observed various techniques to get over this problem. Personally, I unfocus my eyes – as if trying to see the 3D image in one of those Magic Eye books – and walk down the platform unable to see anything clearly at all. This does mean I run the risk of bumping into the tube signage or wandering on to the track, but needs must. Other people have developed a sentence that they say as soon as you make eye contact. This ranges from the uncomfortably abrupt, ‘Oh hello I have lots of work to do on the tube today see you later bye’ to the infinitely more gracious ‘Isn’t the tube journey marvellous for being able to catch up on your emails?’.

At the other end of the scale – and utterly unforgivable – are the people who  hail you over as you’re walking down the platform, as if you’re at a bloody cocktail party. Please, those people! Stop being pleasant, gregarious human beings and join the morose and anti-social hordes around you who understand how to behave properly.