In my previous column I noted my difficulties with mastering the devices proliferating from the amazing technological advances available today. I still praise and curse many of them on a daily basis, especially if I have come to rely upon them in what might become obsessive ways. The latest is Facebook, which I joined shortly before I wrote that recent column and am just now beginning to use more frequently.
I still need help, of course, but I have started fiddling around with the icons and applications on Facebook. I have learned how to ask for new friends and, sadly, how to eliminate some of them, like the daughter of one of my closest female friends. I'm sure we are on each others' Facebook lists because of our mutual "mom." However, I wearied of the daily barrage of newsworthy postings from her such as, "Well, am nursing a hangover today," or "Didn't have a good night's sleep," or "Tried wearing pink today." I finally realized that I don't have the time to read what really doesn't interest me, nor do I have time for the responses others give her such as morning-after remedies. Don't take me wrong: I adore her in person, but if I took time to read all about the daily and rather narcissistic meanderings of all the acquaintances I might want to know more about, I would not have the time to spend with those people around me whom I cherish. So, feeling guilty, I eliminated her from my friends list. I'm sure there are people who don't want me on their lists, either, which is O.K. It is probably hypocritical to object to others' superficial comments: I certainly engage in lots of meaningless chit chat every day, whether on the Internet, the phone or in person. Sometimes, however, we are beset by too much information.
I understand there is a generational gap in my sense of Facebook's usefulness, and I am trying to keep an open mind. By the way, I do resent the comments I hear in the media about how exercised young people are by the audacity of their parents' signing on to Facebook. My answer is, "Why not?" As long as we old codgers can move our fingers over keyboards, why shouldn't we? I don't think any means of communication should be reserved for the young and denied to the old. I have certainly discovered some positive joys of technology and how sometimes even an excess of information contains nuggets within. My access to and knowledge of computers has made me a better teacher and writer and, while I mourn the lack of letter writing, it has been helpful to send the same message to many people at a time.
A few weeks ago I was able to reconnect with a dear friend who as one of my college students babysat my little girls. Later she became a high school principal and then the superintendent of a Southern California school district. I had long ago lost her phone number and she had moved, but a former secretary of hers agreed to contact her via e-mail; if she wanted to, she would return my message. About 15 minutes later she called me. Now retired and living on Whidbey Island in the summer and Long Beach in the winter, she is happy and secure and was thrilled at the pictures I then could send her of my daughters, one of whom is now expecting her own baby. I would not have been able to reconnect with her without the Internet, I don't think.
Then there was the Facebook message my family received from a girl we knew in our Santa Monica days whose life took a very tragic turn when she was just 11. I will not discuss the hideous details, but it is enough to know that she lived with us for five months after her family tragedy. When we moved to Idaho a couple of years later, we lost track. Now she was able to find one of us and let us know that she had a 4-year-old son and a rich and full life, and is a family counselor.
I have often said that I don't like things to be left hanging—I want to know what the outcome is. In this case, I have been able to tie a bow to those chapters lived so long ago and sense a positive result, thanks to technology.