Su Lum: Slumming |

Su Lum: Slumming

Su Lum
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

People had been knocking and knocking on my e-mail door, begging to be my friend, until I felt like the little pig in the house of straw with the wolf outside ready to huff and puff and blow it all in.

The thing was, I didn’t even know most of these people, or they were people who were already friends whom I was in touch with on a regular basis, so why Facebook? I asked my granddaughter Riley if I should join the 21st century and sign up, and she said flatly, “Su, you would hate it,” so I didn’t join and the knocking continued.

The very term “social networking” gave me the creeps. I’m not very social and am of an age where the one or two old, old friends on my missing list whom I might want to look up are not likely to be computer literate or foolish enough to be on Facebook anyway.

Then a month or so ago I got a knock from my friend Terry, my first ad assistant at the Times back in the day, who is now living in Hawaii. And I thought hell, if she can do it, maybe I’d better try it. Terry and I had not lost touch over the years so it wasn’t a reunion situation, it was just such a surprise to get a Facebook knock from Terry that I opened the door.

Talk about Pandora’s Box. Right off the bat, Facebook sent me a scroll of photographs of people I knew who would love to be my friend, which looked suspiciously as if my e-mail address book had been pilfered and matched with Facebook members. Hmm.

On the right-hand side of my Facebook page were ads. In order to join Facebook, you have to give your date of birth. If you click on, “Why do I need to answer this?” the answer is that they need to check the veracity of your identity. Bull hockey.

If I had lied and said I was born in 1990, I’ll bet I would have had ads for new video games and the latest mod fashions – that’s what my friend Hilary’s young niece had on her site. On my site it was ads for retirement homes and how to reduce wrinkles and specials for Depends.

Hilary, showing me how Facebook works, opened her site and demonstrated that anyone that was her Facebook friend had access to the sites of all of her friends whether they and I had previously established a friendship or not. Through Hilary’s site, I could go to my daughter Skye’s site and my granddaughter Riley’s site, which gave me the unpleasant feeling of stalking. And in reverse, just by joining Facebook, a whole pyramid of voyeurs would have access to my site, whether I had accepted them as friends or not.

I write a weekly column that is accessible to anyone in the paper or on the Internet, but I don’t want my private correspondence with real friends and loved ones to be “out there” for everyone to read, and that’s a big problem with Facebook. If you’re restricted to messages you don’t care who reads, why do it? Send a letter or an e-mail instead, directly to real friends.

I e-mailed Terry to say that I didn’t like Facebook and had only joined because she had, and she replied that she had only joined because she had been pressured to do so and didn’t like it either.

My friend Jack, my real live friend Jack, showed me how to access and deactivate my Facebook account, not very easy to find. Having clicked on “deactivate,” I was asked a series of questions wanting to know why I wanted out. I forget what all the options were, but some had to do with distrust of privacy, and there was a space for “Other.” Under “Other,” I wrote, “I do not like Facebook,” but this was not acceptable. It was mandatory that I check one of their reasons.

So I clicked on a reason and immediately got an argument, an attempt to educate me of the fallacy of my thinking and finally, with an almost audible sigh, Facebook released me from my membership, with the reminder that I could always rejoin.

I felt as if I had escaped from Big Brother himself, “just in the nicotine” as my father used to say. Riley was right.

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