“What are ya doing?” the message on Facebook read.
“I’m cleaning the den,” she typed as I looked over her shoulder.
“No you’re not,” I said. “You’re writing about cleaning the den, but you’re not actually cleaning the den.”
That was my introduction to Facebook a few weeks ago. For those of you who live on the same side of the rock as I do--more on Luddite side than the high-tech side--Facebook is an Internet social interaction site. Imagine a dinner party at your house, but without the dinner, beer, gestures and laughter. What do you have left? Chat. That’s Facebook.
I’m more of a listener than a talker so you can see how much use I have for such sites as Facebook, YouTube, MySpace or Xanga. Not much. However, for others, especially for a growing number of those over 40, these sites are in. They’re hip, cool, bad, rad or phat, depending on the decade you came of age.
Beverly Ryan, 62, of East Toledo, uses Facebook to interact with members of her church, Foundation Stone Christian Church and answer prayer requests. She normally goes to church a half hour early to share fellowship, but, in that short time, she can only connect with a few. On Facebook, she meets more people and they are more likely to share their problems in cyberspace than in person.
“Some people are intimidated by one face looking at them. It’s easier to type what you want to say. Once you start typing you know people are going to see it, but you know nobody’s going to judge you. Face to face is harder than Facebook,” she says.
Ryan expected to find prayer requests for sick or dying relatives, but was surprised to find requests from those seeking help to overcome marital and child-rearing problems. She believes Facebook has brought church members closer together.
Ryan also uses Facebook to keep in touch with a sister in Bowling Green and has been trying to convince another sister in Jacksonville, Florida to sign up.
Julie Engler, 48, opened a Facebook account to keep in touch with her son, a Marine who recently deployed to Iraq. She wrote in an e-mail, “We are able to post things to one another on there and he can look at them whenever he has the opportunity to get at a computer. As of now, he hasn’t been able to call because he doesn’t have a phone card and because of the time difference.”
Kelly Meister, 46, of Walbridge uses MySpace to spread her be-kind-to-animals message. Known as The Crazy Critter Lady, Meister has more animals than people as friends on her site. “I get along with animals much better than people,” she says. Her friends include a donkey, a horse and a few ducks. She also has like-minded institutional friends like the ASPCA and the Humane Society.
Meister also uses the site to promote a book she wants to write about her crazy adventures with animals.
She has been surprised by the number of animal lovers who visit and also by some unsavory characters who have unwittingly requested to become friends with her friend Belle the donkey and Pretty Boy, the duck. These porn spammers have invaded these sites like they have e-mail boxes.
Two other women, both in their 50s, have been contacted by people they have lost touch with since their youth, one by a grade-school friend, another by a cousin. Reconnecting with the people you have left behind in the past can be good or bad depending on the type of vintage photos they send to you.
According to Facebook, people over 30 are the fastest growing age group to join its more than 175 million users. They even include businesses like Tony Packo’s and organizations like Metroparks of the Toledo Area. Scott Carpenter, public relations director, started a page a few weeks ago. It has already attracted more than 600 friends. People post photos and videos related to the parks, ask questions and give suggestions. He says the site is good public relations. “What Facebook and other social networks are doing is providing outlets for people and organizations to talk and listen, like an ongoing town-hall meeting,” he says.
This fascination with these sites has college-age adults who once dominated Facebook and MySpace scrambling to find new more age-appropriate sites to keep their profiles secret from prying and judgmental eyes.
So, will you see The Press on Facebook or MySpace?
Yes, go to www.Facebook.com and search The Press Newspapers. But, if you’re looking for my personal page, don’t bother.