My dad is an educated man, successful small business owner, and completely uninterested in joining the digital age. You will not ever find him tweeting or Facebook-ing or any other such thing. When he wants to get a hold of someone, he calls from a landline.
Dad’s core group of friends and colleagues meet for lunch at the same bar in downtown Tacoma every Friday. Often, one or more of the lunch crowd will bring someone new along, and that’s how the group grows. This is Dad’s social network.
At this point, many of you print newspaper stalwarts are nodding your heads and thinking, “That sounds like me, too. What’s wrong with a little face-to-face connection?” Here is where I may lose you.
Each weekday morning, his secretary turns on her computer, prints out the emails in Dad’s inbox, and places them in a folder on his desk. Later, Dad dictates into a tape recorder his responses, which his secretary types up and emails back to the senders.
Get it? He’s just not that into computers.
While I am light-years ahead of my father when it comes to my comfort level with technology, I am not a social media native. I came late to the Facebook party, for years self-righteously decrying my generation’s oversharing problem whenever the question of joining Facebook arose. Then, a few years ago I had a baby and decided I’d like to begin oversharing, too.
They say there’s no zealot like a convert, and I guess that’s me. So my message to those of you still avoiding Facebook and the like is this: I get it. I really do. Certainly, there are some things about social media that irritate and annoy me. But the benefits of staying connected — with old friends, professional contacts and a world of information from across the Internet — have made social media a valuable part of my daily life and the lives of the more than one billion people who are now active on Facebook.
I have found that you can make your online social life whatever you want it to be. You can arrange your settings so that only close family members see your posts. You can share as much or as little as you like. You don’t have to accept those creepy friend requests from long-forgotten high school acquaintances.
My own Facebook newsfeed is like a parade of all the stuff I love: pictures of my nieces and nephews, funny little notes from friends about what they’ve just read or watched, fellow moms sharing stories from the frontlines of toddlerhood, and, of course, all the news and photos we post on The World’s Facebook page.
The force of social change and technological history pushes more and more social media skeptics like me into the Facebook fold every day. My dad probably won’t ever budge, but he also won’t ever know what he’s missing.