Friday, April 10, 2009

My Social Media Grandpa

My grandpa is now on Facebook.

Let me explain who my grandfather is. He’s a World War II veteran. He plays the horses at the track. He used to be a cab driver in Queens. He’s the biggest Yankee fan you’ve ever seen and has been around for almost every championship they ever played. He taught me how to throw a baseball. He is retired and lives with my grandma in Fort Lauderdale.

He’s also 87 years old.

And, he has a Facebook profile.

Which he uses.

Almost every day.

He is not your typical Facebook demographic. Whenever I overhear conversation between people who still think Facebook is for young people who understand all that computer stuff, I laugh, thinking of an octogenarian in South Florida sitting in his little air-conditioned condo at his laptop messing around with his profile picture.

He’s not a pro. He still uses his status updates to talk to specific individuals like my cousin or my mother. (Yes, my mother is also on Facebook, which brings up a whole slew of Jewish cyber-guilt jokes.) He hasn’t figured out quite how to share links or photos. He’s also not joining any groups or causes anytime soon. But he’s staked his ground. He’s a member.

To my delight, my family has been flocking to Facebook as a means of communication that is quickly replacing many other forms of online sharing. I used to upload the kids pictures to Snapfish so everyone can view their birthday parties. Now they go to Facebook. I used to play games with them on Pogo. Now we play Scrabble on Facebook. I used to email them all the time. Now I post messages to their Wall on Facebook. I used to use AIM to chat with my siblings, now… Yep, Facebook. I used to send evites… Facebook Events Calendar. I used to send links to interesting articles and websites. Facebook.

Many of the things I used to do in a multitude of other applications and website have been replaced by Facebook. Why? It’s much easier, simpler and less time consuming. Besides, everyone is on Facebook. Even grandpa.

You can look at it two ways. One, is that Facebook has become uncool. It’s too big. Like Yogi Berra once said, “Nobody goes there anymore, it’s too crowded.” Or you can look at it another way. Facebook has replaced my phone book plus email, plus photo sharing, plus chat, etc. It’s a necessary and welcome utility. Imagine, all those years I tried to get people to give up the walled garden of AOL because they were missing out on the bigger world wide web and now all I want to do is corral them all back behind another even more restrictive one.

I for one am glad grandpa is on Facebook. It started out as a bit of a joke. “We have to get grandpa on Facebook,” we’d say. “He’d like it.” But once he was there, it immediately made sense. And despite the fact that he still types in comments in a conversational tone to photos, not knowing millions of people can see it even though he’s asking a particular person who may or may not have a Facebook account a question, he’s doing very well navigating his way around the site.

We think that he may be the oldest active user of Facebook but we’re not sure. All I know is that for me, Facebook has become a better place. With one more person with whom I can share my family pictures and who really, really cares about my status updates like only my grandpa can care.

Image: My grandpa back in the day.

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