PAnews.com, Port Arthur, Texas

August 14, 2013

Grandmother gathers friends — on Facebook

Erinn Callahan
The Port Arthur News

PORT ARTHUR — Several weeks ago, my grandmother hit 100.

Now, she was not born during Woodrow Wilson’s first term in office — she’s only a sprightly 79 years old. No, in this case, “100” refers to the number of people that have requested to be her friend on Facebook since my aunt so wisely signed her up on the ultra-popular social networking website.

To offer a benchmark on her technological skills, this is a woman who still hasn’t quite mastered the fine art of navigating through her contacts on her cell phone. This is also a woman who once minimized her Solitaire program, then promptly called me into the room to ask where it went. And this is a woman who now has access to the vast repository of culinary photography and baby updates that is Facebook.

The trouble became apparent on a recent car ride.

“I can’t get to Facebook,” my grandmother said, out of the blue.

“Well, you have to type it in,” my mother explained, with more patience than I could have mustered. “It’s not just going to pop up.”

“Where do I type it in?”

“The address bar,” I said. “Facebook. F-A-C-E-B-O-O-K.”

“Thanks,” my grandmother said sarcastically. Maybe she really is getting the hang of this. Maybe reducing Facebook to its simplest form for her benefit is downright insulting. Maybe...

“C-O-M?” she asked.

“Yes.”

“D-O-T?”

My mom and I erupted into laughter.

“No!” I choked out, between gasps. “Not the word ‘dot.’ An actual dot.”

My only response: a perplexed look.

“Oh, for God’s sake. A period.”

Comprehension dawned. Once an English teacher, always an English teacher.

As of yesterday, my grandmother’s friend count was 147 — an amount that took me nearly a year to reach. She can’t communicate with a one of them, since she hasn’t yet grasped the concept of posting a status, but they’re there, and that’s all that matters.

“How many friends do I have now?” she’ll ask, hovering over my shoulder as I sit in front of her computer, having long since given up teaching her how to log in and assumed the burden myself. For her, it’s a popularity contest. She really is beginning to get it.

“I don’t want to read all of this,” she blurted out last week, after scrolling through her news feed and coming across a particularly long-winded post. “Hers are always so long.” Now she’s noticing that people use Facebook as a forum to pontificate at length about matters that, ultimately, really matter only to them. The wheels are turning.

This week, however, full enlightenment came.

She was talking about a friend she hadn’t seen in years. I must preface this — my grandmother is a good Christian woman. That being said...

“All she posts — and Lord forgive me, because I love you,” my grandmother said, looking skyward — “all she posts are Scriptures. Everything she posts is a Bible verse.”

Ladies and gentlemen, it’s happened. My 79-year-old grandmother, who remembers the invention of the cordless telephone, has a better understanding of Facebook than most people my age.

If you want to add her, you’re out of luck — she can’t seem to recall her email address. She does, however, remember that it contains “an a with a thing around it.” Her words.

Email: ecallahan@panews.com

Twitter: @ErinnPA