Explaining Facebook to older folks

At ninety and ninety-five, my parent’s world has narrowed to their pocket-sized apartment. To four homecare visits daily, word search puzzles and a flat screen television, rarely turned on. My brother and sister live nearby and check in often, but my home sits two provinces over, so I phone instead.

In one of those calls, I mentioned Facebook. The conversation went something like this:

“I read something on Facebook the other day….”


“On Facebook.”

“What kind of book is that?”

“It’s not a book.”

“You just said you read it in a book.”

“No, I read on the computer. On Facebook.”

“So, which is it, a book or a computer?”

The conversation flowed like water from there. Downhill. Frustrating everyone. Explaining Facebook with the term “social media” didn’t work either. For many in my parents’ generation, that implies at least two people sharing coffee and a newspaper.

No more mentioning current technology, I decided.

But during a recent call, something changed. It started this way:

“Cousin Eldonna jumped down off a tall gate and shattered her leg,” I told my father, who held the phone at the other end.

“She did what? How’d you hear about that?”

I’d read it on Facebook, actually. But rather than begin another round of techno-babble, another answer came to me. God sent it, I’m sure. He does that.

“Dad, remember the old community bulletin boards, where people posted ads and news and stuff?”

“Oh, yeah!”  He sounded excited. Recalling, perhaps, numerous hours spent during the “dirty thirties” standing in front of such boards, scanning for jobs, cars and used goods.

“Well, there’s a place on the computer like that,” I told him. “Everyone has their own corner of the board where they can post anything they want other people to see.”

“Really? Ya don’t say!” I heard his smile.

“Yes! So if you want to read news about someone, or leave them a note, you just go over to their corner. They call the whole thing Facebook, because everyone has a page with their picture on it.”

Light dawned. “So Eldonna put up a note?”

“Exactly, Dad. Exactly.”

He pondered. “Well. Isn’t that the cat’s meow!” Facebook conquered, we went on to talk about Eldonna’s accident.

All my life, my father has patiently explained to me how things were “way back when.” Even at ninety, he still enjoys talking me through processes that remain vivid in his memory – never mind that he may have explained the same thing to me in detail last week.

It’s my turn now. It’s my daughterly duty now. To listen. To take time. To rely on God to inspire creative ways to explain my life from a distance, as long as they’re interested. Even if it means turning Facebook into a community bulletin board. And even if I have to do and say the same things next week. Because that’s what love does.


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