Facebook is here to stay and while I think it’s a diabolical time stealer, it has a purpose. It’s nice to meet up again with old friends and family and it’s fun to catch up on old times, but there are pitfalls that can beleaguer many Facebookers who sign on after the age of 40.
You can make a lot of painful mistakes. You can hurt your own or — someone else’s self-esteem and you can just plain old screw up and create social awkwardness.
I have put together a few thoughts here to help the over-40 crowd of Facebookers. These are not only points to ponder, but I consider them to be steadfast rules to which you should always adhere when you’re Facebooking over 40.
1) TIME HAS NOT STOOD STILL: The cute guy/gal you knew 30 or 35 years ago is now 30 or 35 years older. In most cases you do not know what has happened to them in their lives or where they are socially, politically or intellectually. Thirty years have passed so you must treat this person initially as a new acquaintance.
Don’t assume that Johnny Clark and Tiffany Brown are still the high-school hotties you knew. There is a 60% chance that Johnny is bald and chubby, and Tiffany might look like a hag who has been through three divorces and serious mental/physical illness. Don’t be shocked and don’t automatically think, “Thank god that didn’t happen to me.” You don’t know what you look like — nobody does. Never say something like, “Remember back in high school when we were so thin and perky?” Maybe you are the fat pig and the other fat pig you are addressing doesn’t consider herself/himself to be a fat pig. Remember, the only person who looks old or fat or bald or whatever is YOU until proven otherwise. Have some manners and turn your social filter up to maximum!
Odds are that you are in for a rude awakening when you see people from your 1980 high school graduating class. If you want to feel old, look at your old friends and know that time has NOT stood still for you either. Johnny Clark might not be the man of your dreams any longer, but he also might still be the arrogant creep who insulted you at the prom. Conversely, he might have been a real a-hole jock back then but now he’s changed into a great guy. Don’t count on it. The same applies to Tiffany Brown. Maybe she got fat and matronly — sure, now she tells you that she thought you were cute in school. Remember — they are NOT the same people. There is a chance that perhaps they are somewhat the same, but bet against it.
2) WHAT NOT TO SAY TO YOUR NEW BUT “OLD” ACQUAINTANCE ON THEIR FACEBOOK PAGE OR IN PRIVATE MESSAGES: Remember, time has passed and when you speak on someone else’s page, you are essentially walking into their house, full of their friends and their family.
DO NOT reference years or ages! Some or most people don’t want their age bandied about – because as they approach 50 men get really sensitive and women are already crippled by the thought that they are past their prime. Just because you’re a loudmouth with confidence doesn’t mean the rest of your graduating class or sleep-away camp friends are too.
There is no need to post on a new add’s Facebook wall — “Wow, can’t believe it’s been 34 years since we hung out at Grillo’s Pizza Parlor. ” That might get you dropped by a Facebooker faster than anything. The rule is to never mention years or age or anything like that. A simple, “haven’t seen you in a long time –you look great and you have great looking family,” will suffice — EVEN IF YOU DO NOT MEAN IT!!!!!
People have a thing called a “frame of reference” — look that up and learn it!
3) DON’T BE A STALKER or a STALKER ENABLER: When a person you hardly knew from school or elsewhere sends you a Facebook friend request, it means that they actively sought for you. If you have no mutual friends with that person, don’t believe their story about how they accidentally found you while looking for someone else. They’re lying. They used to like you and they are suffering from unfulfilled fantasies or they have arrested development. Consider that person to be a stalker — but not in a dangerous way– not yet anyway.
Sometimes you just don’t remember a really good childhood friend and you might lean towards labeling them as a stalker, but ask others you know and maybe the person was your roommate and great friend at camp for three years in a row. You are getting on you know, and you just might have forgotten them.
Sadly, however, you should treat all fringe people from long ago as lonely stalkers. They might be insane killers but the odds are that they are just lonely or curious about you — mostly it’s a compliment that comes 30 years too late. It doesn’t hurt to add them as long as you know who they are — despite the fact that they are on the very last and un-autographed page of your yearbook.
You’re getting too old to be cliquish. Maybe that pimply Joey Dobski is now a very rich guy who looks great — there’s a gray area with stalkers and you need to have them as a Facebook friend for at least a year before you do any reciprocating. If the stalker (he or she) looks really hot, don’t worry about moving in on them — your friends with more nerve will do it for you. If you are curious, perhaps a group get-together in a public place is safe — but do not do anything CURIOUS if you are married. You will screw up your life — trust me on that one!
4) A STALKER IS NOT THE SAME AS A PROWLER: You must learn to recognize “The Prowler” and avoid their games at all costs.
A prowler is somebody you really know very well from your past who gradually befriends many of your Facebook friends but somehow manages to skirt around you. You know they see you and they know that you know. I consider these people to be the biggest jerks on Facebook. Why didn’t they add you before they added Johnny Brown — a guy they barely knew? Because they are jerks — and they always were jerks.
Prowlers circle around your internet space of social networking, but they don’t send you an invite. The obvious sign is when they add three or four of your friends but they don’t add you despite the fact that they can see you. This happens a lot with former boyfriends and girlfriends — but far more often — and scream away if you want — women are the bigger prowlers by far!
This prowler thing applies very often to insecure women who prowl around a guy’s Facebook but don’t want to be “the one” to ask or say hello. Guys are dumb and they don’t usually prowl. If they want to add you, they add you. There’s a weird difference between the male ego and the female ego.
Then you have your prowlers who will say hello in a private message but still do not send a friend request. They want YOU to do it and they are content to add all of your friends without adding you. I say IGNORE THEM. Don’t think that maybe you should add them — NO! They gradually infiltrated your cyber family and intentionally ignored you because they wanted YOU to ask THEM. That’s something a person with problems will do — and if you think back you will probably remember that this person was like that when you knew them way back when.
5) BEWARE OF THE WORDS “IT’S COMPLICATED” BECAUSE IT REALLY IS: When you are interested in an old flame or they are interested in you, beware always of the marital status listed as “IT’S COMPLICATED” because nothing smells worse than that.
In my world, those words mean the following things. a) I cheat on my wife but I have justified it in my own head. b) I cheat on my husband but I have justified it in my own head. c) I am so screwed up in a relationship that you should stay away from me at all costs. d) I am involved or like to be involved in strange relationships. e) Run for your life. f) I’m broke and I’m a loser. g) I have a family but they don’t want anything to do with me. h) I am in jail or have been in jail for bad stuff. i) I will pretend to like you because I want money — AND LAST BUT NOT LEAST — I CHEAT ON MY SPOUSE — oh, wait, I said that already.
Perhaps the “It’s Complicated” crowd will get angry about these generalizations, but I am sure that if they look deep within themselves they will see that I am right. They might even try to justify their behavior and scream, “But IT IS complicated, Damien!” Sorry to hear it, pal. Just keep all that complication on your side of the fence . Anyone who dives in despite the “it’s complicated” disclaimer, deserves what they get.
6) RESPECT THE FACEBOOKER WHO HAS A PROFILE PIC OF THEMSELVES AND THEIR SPOUSE TOGETHER: If you see an old friend and their profile pic is a family pic or a pic of them with their spouse, you should respect that and always address any correspondence to both husband and wife. If you can’t do that, you can always add on like this…. “It was so nice to hear from you, Eileen and the pictures were great. I hope Joe ( the husband) wasn’t bored by our school days reminiscing.” <—- catch on? INCLUDE THE SPOUSE! That’s why he is in the picture — in more ways than one.
7) DO NOT FRIEND YOUR FRIEND’S CHILDREN — IT’S CREEPY: There is no reason why you have to add the children of a friend. You’re getting to the age where some of your childhood friends have kids who are 17 or 18 and there is no reason for you to be on their page whatsoever. You will look like a creepy old weirdo. The kid might be too polite to not accept your invite, and even if they invite you, it’s always best to say thanks but no thanks. You can say, “You guys are so young and cool. Why would you want an old crone like me on your page. You’re a great kid — have fun!” <—see how easy that is?
Okay, so I had a lot of help from my older experts when I wrote this. Dr. Sheldon Hartunis and Dr. Benjamin Switchy. If you would like to add another Facebook facctoid, please do so and I will add it on the comment page. I want to know what I missed.
Next week I will tackle the younger Facebookers — the one’s with whom I have the most experience. That’s gonna suck!