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Crabby Old Lady's New Facebook Rant

Posted Dec 14 2010 8:31am

In the greater scheme of things - such as what Monday's test vote in the Senate portends for the future of Social Security - Facebook doesn't matter and Crabby Old Lady feels slightly foolish bringing it up right now.

Nevertheless, it is an irritation, a burr in one's saddle, a pebble in the shoe of life that refuses to be ignored, leeching time and attention from more useful pursuits.

Those who have a distaste for Facebook are often made to feel like hopeless Luddites by the "cool kids" who are willing to kick non-users to the curb in their mad rush to share with the world every jot and tittle of their lives.

“Leave me a message on my wall,” say “friends” when Crabby Old Lady complains they haven't responded to an emailed question. “I hardly ever check my inbox nowadays,” they tell her with an barely concealed whiff of derision at her failure to join the mob.

For various purposes, Crabby has six or seven, long-standing email addresses, including a couple of aliases to ensure privacy when she wants it, and she spent a good deal of effort a long time ago setting them up so that messages from all arrive in the same inbox on her computer.

Unless Crabby doesn't want to be disturbed for a period of time, that program, Mozilla Thunderbird, remains open all day where she can check messages from those sources with one click. It is an efficient system that allows her to keep all addresses, archived messages and even rss subscriptions in one place organized by folders, color coding and useful icons.

Curious about it when Facebook was first becoming a phenomenon, Crabby Old Lady signed up for an account. Unable to suss out any reason to use the site, she forgot about it or, rather, tried.

Soon, friend requests began arriving, along with something called “pokes," “gifts” of beer and flowers about which she had (and still has) no idea what to do, and invitations to join groups.

Even while despising Facebook's distortion of the meaning of the word, it seems curmudgeonly not to accept someone's request to be her “friend,” so Crabby presses “accept” when they arrive. She ignores everything else.

That is, she attempts to ignore them because one dirty, little secret about Facebook whose baby billionaire CEO wants it to be everything to everybody including email, is that it announces every event related to Crabby by – wait for it – email.

And, apparently, anyone can add other Facebook members to groups without consent. Saturday morning, Crabby's email inbox was spammed with 10 or 12 messages from someone she never heard of welcoming her to a new Facebook group and following up with nattering ruminations on how the group should or should not operate.

Let Crabby Old Lady give you – whoever you are - a clue about that: SHE DOESN'T CARE. YOU ARE BEING RUDE. GET OUT OF CRABBY'S INBOX.

Later, someone else caught in this brain dump of unwanted information told Crabby that it may all be spam and later still, the “perpetrator” emailed (neither of thes messages, you will note, via all-things-to-all-people Facebook) to apologize; she had been led to believe that adding names sent those people an invitation only. Which proves several of Crabby's abundant number of objections to Facebook:

It is a source of unending crap in her inbox.

It will send as much crap as possible to as many people as possible whether one intends to or not.

It is designed to make it as hard as possible to understand.

Even smart, interesting people Crabby knows turn stupid on Facebook blasting messages of minutiae all day.

Then there are Facebook's well-publicized invasions of privacy. Remember the one in which Facebook, without permission, posted the retail purchases members had made? Crabby doesn't follow Facebook stuff closely, but she seems to recall that it recently inaugurated a location finder that tells friends where members are at any given moment.

Call Crabby old-fashioned all you want, but she doesn't care when you're at the supermarket or if it is raining and she's pretty sure all but the hardest-core Facebook users don't care about her wanderings and weather either. What kind of fevered brain even thinks up this stuff.

What makes these invasions most insidious is that they are implemented unannounced requiring disinterested or insulted members to opt out which Facebook, again, makes as difficult as possible. An example:

Also on Saturday morning, Chris Pirillo's Lockergnome newsletter related a new attack on Facebook members' privacy. Suddenly, Mark Zuckerberg's brainchild is posting members' comments, even those made on closed, passworded pages, on the commenters' public walls. Let Chris explain :

[Kat's] Mom has very few friends on Facebook for a reason and her page is as locked down and secure as it can be. She doesn’t wish to share her information with anyone.

Kat, however, does not have her Wall and information locked down. She is very social, due to the type of work we do. Imagine how upset her very private mom is going to be if the things Kat writes on her Wall start showing up for all of you to read?

No kidding.

Some time ago, the blog platform Crabby uses, Typepad, made it easy to connect her blogs with Facebook so that when a story is published here, it is posted at the same time to Facebook (and to Twitter, but don't make Crabby go there). She did so for whomever might want to read Time Goes By and The Elder Storytelling Place that way but only because it was a simple setup and requires zero maintenance. If it ever breaks, it will stay that way.

A few readers have suggested that Crabby create something called a fan page on Facebook for Time Goes By. What? A “wall” isn't enough? And how much time would it cost Crabby to keep it up? Don't answer. She has no interest and finds the thought of having "fans" (an abbreviation, for anyone who has forgotten, of fanatics - something more suitable to teenage singers wearing too few clothes) embarrassing.

Against many odds, Crabby tries to keep her life simple and computers themselves are complex enough. Programs go wonky. There are constant update notices for everything on her hard drive. Even with the strongest virus protection, some sneak through. And it takes daily tinkering to keep email spam at bay. Last week, her two-month-old mouse died.

One computer, one email program and two blogs are enough for Crabby Old Lady's communication needs; there are a zillion more compelling things in life than Facebook.

If you like Facebook, fine. Crabby makes the blogs available for you there. But don't ask her to do anything else with it.

All of the above notwithstanding, at the request of several Time Goes By readers over many months Crabby, this week, implemented the Facebook "Like" button at the bottom of each blog entry. It is a test. If readers don't use it, it will be removed.

(PS: If you cannot resist tutoring Crabby Old Lady the intricacies of Facebook functions in the comments below – please reconsider.)

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Rebecca Gordon: Torture and a Trip to the Emergency Room

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