Monday, April 22, 2013

You’ve lost a friend in Pennsylvania

*** Note to reader(s): I turned in an old column again this week.  These days, I feel like I'm doing pretty good if I can keep my fingernails clipped - getting a column done is extra credit.  But that's the benefit of writing a weekly column for eight years - after a while, you can start plagiarizing yourself and nobody will notice.  The column below is from 2009.  I barely recognize it, and I wrote the thing, so hopefully it'll be like new to you, too.***

Getting my mom to join Facebook seemed like such a good idea at the time. In retrospect, it was an innovation on par with New Coke, the Hindenburg and The Matrix sequels.

“Oh, that’s for you kids. You don’t want me lurking around on Facebook, seeing what you all are up to,” she said a few weeks ago. Up to that point, Mom’s favorite social networking site had been her living room.

But my wife Kara and I insisted, thinking that Mom would enjoy using Facebook, catching up with some old friends and keeping up with current ones. So during a weekend visit to our house, while my dad and I huddled around the kitchen sink, trying to figure out the right combination of expletives and wrenches to get the new faucet installed, Kara and Mom huddled around the laptop, working on installing Mom into the world of online social networking.

Initially, the installation looked very promising. “Ooh, hey, I haven’t talked to her since high school!” Mom said, high-fiving Kara as they trolled through Facebook’s oceans of people, chumming friend requests overboard along the way. By the end of the weekend, Mom had connected with a couple dozen friends and family members. Your Facebook account isn’t fully mature until it gathers more friends than the number of people you’ve actually met in your life, but it was a good start.

The troubles began later in the week, when Mom changed her relationship status to “Married” to reflect her forty-one years of marriage to my dad.

Immediately, some family friends from my generation posted comments like: “Congratulations on finally getting him to tie the knot!” and “Hubba hubba -- who’s the new beau?”

“They’re making fun of me,” Mom said over the phone. “What did I do wrong?”

“Nothing, Mom. They were just joking around,” I said.

“Well, okay, but I don’t really understand the point of all this. Your cousin just told the whole world what he ate for breakfast,” she said.

“You don’t have to read everybody’s status updates,” I replied.

“I had Special K with fresh blueberries this morning. Do you think I should tell everyone?” she asked.

Clearly, her generation lacks the healthy narcissism of mine. Mom’s enthusiasm for Facebook gradually waned over the next few days as waves of shallow communications washed across her screen. Then a family friend uploaded a picture of Mom in which she’d been caught mid-sentence, clearly not ready for the flash to go off. It was the upload that broke the camel’s back.

“I’ve been trying for three hours to delete this photo of me,” she said, sounding exhausted. “How do I get rid of it?”

Unfortunately, pictures from your past, uploaded by your friends, are an indignity one must suffer as a Facebook user. A friend of mine from college recently uploaded pictures of me from the regrettable period several months after I’d decided to grow my hair out. Growing your hair long isn’t something you just do. It takes lots of dedication and baseball caps.

The first comment read like this: “Hey, Mike looks like a mushroom. Look out, Mike! Super Mario’s going to jump on you!”

I tried to explain to Mom that she couldn’t delete pictures that she hadn’t uploaded. The best she could do was to remove the tag that contained her name.

“Well, I don’t think Facebook was meant for my generation. I’m going to leave,” she said.

“Leave? I don’t think you can leave,” I said. “It’s like the mafia.”

Somehow, though, Mom left. I picture her dropping from the ceiling at Facebook headquarters, suspended from the small of her back by a cable like Tom Cruise in Mission: Impossible.

If you’d like to issue a friend request to my mom these days, the best place to start would probably be her living room.

You can de-friend Mike Todd at

1 comment:

  1. Ha ha! That was worth reading twice.I'm with Mom; I don't "get" Facebook either. Too much fighting!
    You were right about the narcissism, though. I keep my old blogs in binders and have read them all numerous times. I think they might be Pulitzer prize-worthy.
    Keep on --