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Facebook: A way all ages can keep in touch

by Larry S. Chowning

image Teresa Bohannon:
Before Facebook, for the past decade I have sent daily/weekly emails, sending pictures of my family, and updates and reminders to everyone of all our birthdays and special events. Now, it is all on Facebook. I love it!

image Julie Burwood:
Practice safe Facebooking. I recommend not posting your birth year. Keep on top of your privacy settings. Make sure only friends can view your posts and photos, and lock your posts so what you say does not come up in someone else’s Google search. (Burwood is founder and president of AppleSeeds, a Mac User Group that meets monthly in Irvington.)

image SSentinel.com:
Follow us on Facebook for breaking news.

image Julie Burwood:
I don’t recommend friending people you do not know. You may ignore friend requests. You have to have an email account to open a Facebook account, so I suggest using something other than your main email account for privacy reasons.

imageacebook is an online social networking web­site that has become popular with senior citizens. More than 200 million people are active users worldwide and it is one of the fastest growing sites on the internet today.

It makes sense that a lot of grandparents are interested in Facebook, because social networking has been going on for generations. As youngsters, Baby Boomers used the old party-line telephone system to share neighborhood happenings, and the drug store lunch counter has always been a place where the latest community news is discussed.

In a way, Facebook is much like the old party-line telephone, except the Internet goes far beyond the neighborhood. 

Ann Sullivan of Kilmarnock enjoys Facebook. A grandmother with her children and grandchildren living in Maryland, Sullivan uses Facebook regularly to interact with her family.

“I use it to see what my grandchildren are doing,” she said. “My daughter and her husband are both on Facebook and I’m able to find out about things I might not know otherwise.

“My daughter posts pictures of the boys at Boy Scouts or other places,” said Sullivan. “I enjoy seeing them. They live in Maryland so we don’t see them but every month or so, and with all this bad weather we haven’t seen them since Christmas.

“We are not there, but we get a feeling of what they are doing. Facebook is a great way to keep in touch,” she said. “My daughter also responds quicker when I send her a message on Facebook than if I use email.”

Sullivan recently retired from the Virginia Retirement Service and she is keeping in touch with her old friends on Facebook and several of her nieces too. “I made a quilt recently and I posted it on Facebook, and my nieces commented on it. It’s just a good way to keep in touch with family and friends.”

Bonnie Williams of Revis in Middlesex County has an elderly mother in Lewisetta. Her mother has a Facebook friend living nearby who relays Williams’ messages and photos to her mother. Williams sends photos by Facebook rather than mailing them to her mother. “I can get them there quicker on Facebook than by mail,” she said.

“I also post pictures for my Facebook friends. I don’t use it for small talk like, ‘I’m cooking chicken for supper,’ but some people do,” said Williams. “I do send messages to friends and keep them updated on my grandchildren.”

Williams is connected to about 60 or 70 friends on Facebook, but some of her friends have as many as 400 to 500 friends. “What happens is they get in touch with someone they went to grade school with and a chain reaction starts,” she said. “Then, other people see it and email them and ask to be their friend. If you want to be their friend, you can accept them. Most people don’t want to tell them ‘no,’ but you can ignore them and they’ll get the message,” said Williams.

Friends pop up from everywhere, she said. “I posted a bunch of pictures about Urbanna School and May Day and dancing around the Maypole. Someone saw the pictures and wanted to be my friend to be able to tag the pictures. When pictures are tagged they can be transferred to another user.

“I’m hooked on it but I don’t see how people keep up with 400 and 500 friends because I can hardly keep up with mine,” said Williams.

In order to gather input on the use of Facebook by “grandmothers and grandfathers,” people were asked to submit comments on the Sentinel Facebook site. The following are a few of the comments.

Teresa S. Bohannon said her mother and great-grandmother use Facebook to share news with her sister and other relatives in Texas.  “Before Facebook, for the past decade I have sent daily/weekly emails, sending pictures of my family, and updates and reminders to everyone of all our birthdays and special events. Now, it is all on Facebook. I love it!”

Bohannon sees the many benefits of Facebook. “There are a lot of Vietnam vets that never talked about what they went through in the war who are now catching up with each other through Facebook and even going to reunions to see each other. I see this as helping with the healing after all these decades,” she said.

Lisa Mikus said, “I imagine that in your older years it’s difficult to find something new that you can learn and challenge yourself with. I’m sure those seniors who are using Facebook are feeling great about themselves for learning something new! Especially something that can break up the monotony of living alone or rarely getting out of the house.

“One of the things that many people can’t appreciate around here is that although I went to school locally until 9th grade, I went to boarding school for the rest of my high school years,” said Mikus. “Our classes consisted of people from all walks of life, and all over the world.”

Grandmother Cindy Miles Kellar said, “Through Facebook, I have been able to reconnect with many of the kids I went to high school with. This has been a very rewarding experience for me, sharing photos, stories and such with these friends. We are even planning a big reunion for this year, and most of us have not seen each other in 30-plus years. So yes, this is one grandma that loves Facebook!”

posted 02.26.2010

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