We’ve come a long way since a year ago, when my friend Liscio suggested a better title for How Not to Act Old might be I Hope They Have Facebook In Hell.
After months – make that years – of telling my kids I just didn’t understand Facebook, I finally fell. And yes, now I love it.
The only real problem with Facebook is that it’s all too easy to act even older and more out of it after we start using it than we did when we were still holding out. While I have some tips in the How Not To Act Old book, here are some further instructions on how not to Facebook old:
1. DON’T SCREW UP THE PICTURE. The first thing that tends to send us into a panic about getting on Facebook is, well, the face part. We may, of course, be technologically challenged and find it impossible to figure out how to upload a picture, to which I’d say: It’s all about where you save it in the first place. And if that makes absolutely no sense to you, ask the nearest 14-year-old boy to walk you through the process.
If you DO know how to upload a picture but you’re just paralyzed because you don’t want to look old on Facebook, here are a few tips. Do NOT use your professional headshot, the one the company paid to have taken back in ’02 that features you stiff and smiling against no-seam. Way too formal. Do NOT substitute pictures of your kids or, even worse, you as a kid. And please, I don’t want to friend your cat.
Ironic pictures of toy robots or Glinda the Good Witch are permissible, but best is a simple, pretty, flattering, relaxed picture of you taken by someone who really loves you – like yourself. Instant facelift: Hold the camera over your head and look up when you shoot.
2. DON’T REALLY TELL US WHAT YOU’RE DOING. As on Twitter, too-literal status updates – Heading to the gym! Chicken for dinner again! – are not only old, they’re boring. The young thing is to eschew status updates altogether, but that seems too extreme. Better: Short, provocative, personal, without over-sharing. The kind of thing you’d say at a cocktail party, before the third Mojito.
3. NOT TOO BUSINESS, NOT TOO CASUAL. It’s all too easy to err one way or another on Facebook, using it primarily to promote your professional ventures or letting your digital hair down – crazy party pictures! – the way the kids do. But both these tacks are wrong. Even if you use your Facebook account mainly for business, you need to leaven the self-promotion with personal details, quirky observations, a bit of revelation.
And if your Facebook friends are mostly your actual friends, you still need to remember that in the future anyone from your would-be boss to your long-lost nephew may be Facebook stalking you. And speaking of that….
4. DON’T BE A FACEBOOK STALKER. Yes, you can be friends with someone you don’t really know. But you can’t use that as an excuse to try and Chat with them whenever you see they’re online, invite them to quiz themselves on which Jane Austen character they are, or comment on everything they say and do. That’s not just old, that’s creepy.
5. DEFRIEND YOUR KIDS. Kids refuse to friend you? Well, defriend them right back, even if only theoretically. But seriously, if your grownup kids don’t want a Facebook relationship with you, don’t try to circumvent that by friending their friends, tagging them in pictures, sending them private Facebook messages instead of emails. Some things are sacred, and, between the generations, Facebook may be one of them.
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