Get Grandma on Facebook

My grandma has always been cooler than I am. No, seriously: at her fiftieth wedding anniversary, she danced all night in blue sequined heels. Later, she lip-synched in a homemade music video with my aunts and uncles to “Love Shack.” And, despite the fact that I was in college during Facebook’s formative years and theoretically should be one of its pioneers, Grandma is way better at using Facebook than I am.

Seeing as how she is turning 96 later this week (sorry for revealing your age, Grandma!), Grandma is not exactly in the prime demographic for Facebook usage. While we tend to stereotype her peers as fogies who complain about teenagers while knitting sweaters in July, Grandma defies those expectations by logging in to check out my cousins’ photographs, to comment on my sisters’ statuses, and to stay in touch with her six kids, twenty-one grandkids, fifteen great-grandkids (none of that includes in-laws and step-relations!), and many more friends.

Grandma’s age has not stopped her from liking my honeymoon photos, agreeing with my sister that a certain sub shop manager is a real asshole, and joking with friends that she’s getting to the age where she really needs to stop dancing on tables. And that’s why it drives me—and probably her—crazy when we hear people shy away from certain technology, claiming they’re “too old for it.”

You are never too old for technology. If anything, the older you are, the more you can benefit from the advanced communications that come with computers. While it may eventually become harder to get out of the house, e-mail, Facebook, and Twitter let you engage in meaningful conversations with others without demanding that you go anywhere. (Or, for that matter, you can engage in some pretty meaningless conversation too—but at least that’s fun!)

I know, your children and grandchildren should find ways other than Facebook to communicate with you. They should write and they should call and they should visit. But they don’t, and sometimes live too far away for that to be realistic (my family is spread across three countries, for example). With Facebook, they will be able to seamlessly stop in to give you updates and see how you’re doing, with much greater frequency than other methods of communication can support.

Grandma doesn’t know everything about her computer, Facebook, e-mail, or whatever else she comes across during the day. If I were to ask her to create a PDF from a Word document, she’d probably stare at me blankly. But as she says, she knows what she needs to know. Just like I drive a car without knowing exactly is going on in the engine, you can be on a computer and simply do the steering; don’t let yourself be intimidated by the technology. My two year-old niece has figured out how to access Facebook from my sister’s cell phone, and if she can do it, there is hope for us all.

Now, I recognize the irony of pleading with a generation to get online from a blog platform. Many of the people I’m trying to reach out to may never encounter this. So here’s my hope: if you have a loved one who could benefit from a little more contact with other people, bring over your laptop, tablet, cell phone, or whatever you can to show them how simple and fun Facebook can be. Get them an account and encourage them to buy a computer if they don’t have one already—it’s well worth the investment.

Once they get to the comfort level my grandma has, they will be surprised at the doors opened to them. At my nephew’s baptism in Saint Louis seven years ago, Grandma strolled in with pictures of the newborn baby. Everyone was amazed that she had print copies of photographs, considering he was only a couple weeks old, lived 300 miles away from her, and she hadn’t yet met the baby. “Oh,” she nonchalantly responded. “Sarah sent digital pictures and I uploaded them to Walgreens, and they mailed the prints to me.” She was 89 at the time. If she hadn’t sat down then to figure out that skill, she would have missed out on seven years’ worth of pictures and events. It is never too late to learn.

Whoever you are and wherever you’re from, know that you have a lot to gain through the technologies available. Computers and computer programs are growing increasingly user-friendly, and there is no harm in at least trying. Just, for the love of all things holy, don’t start playing Candy Crush Saga.

Readers, do you have any other tips on how to encourage more people to use Facebook, email, or other online methods to communicate? Do you know anybody else who has benefitted from these technologies? Tell us about it!

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