This morning I was waiting in my chiropractor’s office (I have sciatica! Raise your hand if you’re an old lady! Just me? Oh.), and to combat waiting room boredom, I decided to eavesdrop on a conversation between the couple sitting next to me. They were older, maybe in their late 40s or early 50s. The conversation was something like this:
Man: “Today is Jane’s birthday.”
Woman: “No, it was yesterday.”
Man: “Oh yeah, you’re right.”
Woman: “Did you check Facebook to see if there’s a party?”
Years ago, electronic invitation services such as e-Vite took over for sending traditional paper invitations. And it all seemed fine – save some trees and let everyone see who else is going (how else do you determine if the event is worthy of your time or not?). When Facebook became prominent, people started sending invitations through that site’s social calendar function, which also sort of seemed ok. Except for the fact that traditional etiquette gets further and further away with each of these electronic advancements. What if you don’t check Facebook all that often? Many people don’t, especially folks in the age group of the couple I encountered this morning. It made me feel a little sad for them, like they knew that, unless they checked Facebook, they would miss out because no one would tell them about it otherwise. Is that what passes for ok these days?
When I first signed up for Facebook however many years ago, I was as fascinated as the next person about the access I had to details of the lives of people I haven’t spoken to in many years, or people who I am only mildly acquainted with. But the newness wore off, and it became tedious to me to see the ignorant things people say, the horrific oversharing, and the hours of time that people waste playing stupid things like Farmville or Mafia Wars. So my logging on is pretty much few and far between these days, and I mostly only do it if I have a notification pending or a message from someone I need to respond to.
My extended family are some of the worst at committing the Facebook offenses I mention above. My cousins and their children are not above bickering at each other through status updates, using offensive language in a way that just makes them sound trashy and ignorant, and playing dumb games that take up 90% of my home page. A few months ago, one of my cousins got engaged. The only reason anyone knew that (including his own father) was because he and his fiancee took pictures of the ring and posted it online. The only reason I knew about it was because my mom (the epitome of a Facebook “creeper”) called to tell me, “Your cousin Tony just got engaged. You should go on Facebook and congratulate him.”
I don’t know why, but I found this insulting, and I refused to do it. I resent the idea that, unless I’m pathetically cruising other people’s status updates, I will miss the important events of their life. Doesn’t anyone make a phone call anymore? Or even send a personal email? It feels like, if you are not paying attention on Facebook then you miss the boat. My own rule that I made up is, if it’s important enough that you expect me to congratulate you, then tell me yourself. Don’t assume I am checking out your Facebook status. Maybe some people don’t care, but if anyone ever got insulted because I didn’t congratulate them through social media, that is the argument I would use.
I wonder if I am a lone dissenting opinion on this (I generally put a lot of thought into things that most people don’t care about). Worse, going back to my new status as an old lady, perhaps I’m just losing touch with what currently passes for socially acceptable. I know I already make many “Back in my day..” type statements, and that’s probably only going to get worse. Maybe I should start posting them all to Facebook.