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The Autograph Book

When I was in elementary school, one big fad at the time, especially for girls, was owning an autograph book. You’d go around collecting “autographs” from your friends, your classmates, and even your teachers.

Most people wrote little poems like:

“2 Y’s U R
2 Y’s U B
I think U R
2 Y’s 4 Me”

Or:

“Grandpa getting old and gray
Whiskers always in the way
Grandma eats them in her sleep
Thinks she’s eating Shredded Wheat”

Well, you can’t beat that!

I didn’t have an actual book at first, so I stapled some pieces of paper together and used that instead. Then I finally bought a real autograph book at the local drug store and enthusiastically thrust it in front of my school friends.

What made me think of that book recently was when I was trying to decide what the equivalent of Facebook was back in the 60’s. What did we do instead of posting on Facebook? Let me think…

Well, besides our autograph books, if a friend had a birthday, you’d give them a card. And maybe the “bumps”.

If something exciting happened in your life, you told your friends in person or by phone. Telephone. With a rotary dial.

You were lucky if you had a personal photograph of anything to show people. In most cases, only the grown-ups in the family had a camera. A real camera with a roll of film in it.

Then you had to wait a couple of weeks while getting the photos developed to see if the pictures had even turned out. And they were ALL black and white photos in the 60s.

I don’t ever remember anyone taking a picture of their plate of food. Interesting.

If you were really high tech like my uncle, you owned a movie camera. The only reason any moving images exist of me as a child is because of him. Thank you, Uncle George.

The internet changed a lot of things. And Facebook has become a place where you can easily do all of the above and more.

Say happy birthday to your friends. Post videos of your recent adventure or your silly cat. Show people what you had for dinner last night. Um, yeah.

When Facebook and Instagram and WhatsApp went down for a long chunk of time last week, I didn’t really think much of it at first. Websites go down sometimes. Big deal.

But as the down time went on, I sauntered over to Twitter to see if I could find out what was happening. There, I found a plethora of posts from people bragging that they weren’t ON Facebook anyway, so they didn’t care.

A day or two after Facebook had returned to normal, I questioned my Facebook friends, asking if they were affected at all by the website’s down time. Most were hardly aware.

One friend said if Facebook was down any longer, she might begin to notice her puppy pics piling up. A number of friends said they were too busy doing “real people stuff” to notice at all.

Several of them realized how much time they “wasted” on Facebook because of the outage, making them rethink their participation on the platform.

One said she missed Messenger because it was the only way she could communicate with a special friend. And then she added that she felt especially bad “for all the anti-vaxxers that didn’t have access to their ‘research’.”

Followed by a laughing emoji, of course.

Facebook has had plenty of very negative publicity lately, especially after a whistleblower recently testified before Congress. The former Facebook employee brought with her a treasure trove of internal documents showing how the company hides what it knows about its negative effect.

Now Facebook is suggesting Frances Haugen could face legal consequences for her actions.

It reminds me that, even though my Facebook friends are all wonderful, there are a lot more nefarious things going on there that we don’t necessarily see. And considering Zuckerberg’s belligerence and refusal to take any responsibility, maybe it’s time to consider abandoning Facebook altogether.

It would be fun to send him this little message:

By hook or by crook
I’ll be the last to write in your book…

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Facebook Follies

When I became a computer operator (now referred to as a computer “technician”) at the Vancouver Public Library back in the early 80s, it was an enormous task to enter the name of every book and periodical, and every patron, into our new system. We hired a group of people for that task, and they literally spent months and months tucked away in a room, doing nothing but data entry.

It amused us at the time that a few of the patrons were worried about their information being put into a computer system. Who would see their names and addresses? Who would have access to their records? We rolled our eyes at their paranoia.

Little did we know that 40 years later, we’d be carrying devices in our pockets that knew almost everything about us even when we didn’t mean for them to. Not only that, but those little devices could also broadcast whatever they knew about us anywhere in the world, to whomever wanted that info.

Last year around this time, we were on what would be our last (sob) vacation on the Big Island of Hawaii, before this COVID thing hit. We were walking through a market when I spotted a t-shirt on a woman about my age, and it made me laugh. I can’t remember now exactly what it said, but it wasn’t anything I’d seen anywhere before, and I thought it was pretty funny.

So I giddily told my husband and my daughter about it after we had passed the woman.

Back at our condo that evening I was on my iPad perusing Facebook, when I saw that very t-shirt in my Facebook feed. It was a unique t-shirt, so I knew it wasn’t a fluke. That was the first time I realized just how little privacy I actually had. Suddenly, those long ago library patrons questioning where their info was going to be seen or accessed, weren’t so paranoid to me anymore. My phone was actually listening to me.

As we have all discovered, the technology and algorithms on our phones and other devices are mapping our routes, listening to us, and watching every Google search we make.

A lot of people have quit Facebook for many reasons, including that privacy issue. Facebook pretty much makes all of their revenue (in 2020, close to $86 billion US) from businesses, big and small, who want your dollars. Of course, that’s what advertising is for, and what would businesses and companies do if they couldn’t advertise?

What bothers me is the sneaky little way that technology is figuring out what you might want to spend your money on. It feels creepy. It’s like some sleazy guy followed you as you walked through the mall, and watched as you eyed that new red dress. Then he shows up in the parking lot with the red dress, trying to convince you to buy it from him as you’re attempting to get into your car. That kind of creepy. And so much more.

Because, now imagine thousands of sleazy guys following you through the mall, every one of them carefully watching to see which purchases you might be considering. That’s closer to reality.

What’s even worse is how we are targeted by political ads. The fallout from that has been witnessed in such a distressful way with our neighbours to the south. “Freedom of speech” the tech companies say. More like “freedom to spew bull poop”.

In spite of all of this, my 149 friends and I are still on Facebook. Oh, there have been a few who’ve left, especially after some of the negative publicity that Facebook has received. And others have un-friended me for reasons I cannot fathom. What did I do? What did I say? It feels like being dumped.

And why are the rest of us still scrolling our Facebook feeds? That’s a good question, which I am sure has many answers. For me, it’s about staying in touch with friends and family, especially during these difficult times. Sure, there are other ways to do that, but at this point, the convenience that Facebook offers is unparalleled, at least for me.

Many of us are are waiting for the day that these social media companies will be held more accountable for their content, and take greater responsibility for their massive influence. We can always hope?

Me, I’m just trying to keep my voice down, in case that creepy guy on my phone is still listening. Shhhh!

“Hello, How Are You Today?”

I had a most interesting phone conversation today, but for the life of me, I can’t remember most of it.  It’s not that the guy on the other end didn’t try;  in fact, he tried too hard really.  He went on for 20 minutes, almost straight through, making points for his cause.  He was from a charitable organization, one that I used to send regular monthly contributions to.  I won’t say what the organization is, because that’s not the point.

For a number of years I supported this organization until I gradually began to feel less comfortable with it;  maybe I changed, maybe they did.  For the last two years that I supported it, I was rather resentful of the money I was giving them every month.  Now it’s not that I sent a whole lot; it was minimal, really.  But I began to feel that I was wasting my money supporting something I was not 100% behind.  Finally, when I had to close a bank account for another reason, I used that opportunity to stop sending them cheques.  And of course, at first they did their utmost to convince me to continue.

And that became a problem.

I understand that charities and organizations who depend on the general public’s generosity struggle a great deal with the financial aspect.  I recognize that it’s not an easy job finding ways to convince people to send more money, or to send money at all.  A lot of them are proud of the fact when they have no government or corporate funding (as this fellow pronounced to me today), and do it all themselves.  And it’s not easy.

But when they continue to call, or send emails or monthly newsletters as if I had a subscription…but ESPECIALLY when they continue to call…they are driving me even further away.  Not only that, but they are spending an awful lot of time and paper, and therefore that money that is so precious to them, on somebody who really is not interested.  Maybe there should be a “best before” date beside the names on their lists.  If the person they’re calling doesn’t change their mind within, say, three or four calls, give it a rest.  And stop sending newsletters that only get immediately thrown in the recycling box.

For the last 3 years, I have had continuous newsletters and phone calls from them.  And what struck me interesting about this conversation today was that this fellow really knew his stuff.  He could discuss issues here where I live (he was calling from across the country), and around the world in many areas of interest.  He knew histories of all kinds of problems, and, according to his monologue, he had actually been to many of these countries himself and witnessed all that he was speaking about.  He was a smart, intelligent man, well spoken and not the least bit provocative in a negative way.  And when he finally took a breath, I had a chance to say that I was no longer interested and had not been interested since I had stopped my payments several years ago, and could he kindly take my name off his list?

He said of course that could be done, and then he did the obvious thing;  he asked me why I had stopped my support in the first place.  So I told him why.  Whereupon he began again to tell me why I shouldn’t feel that way.  And the conversation (or should I say monologue) picked up fervor again as he began to list all of the accomplishments, behind the scenes virtues and triumphs of said organization.  I felt myself “um-hmm”ing all over again for another ten minutes.  At one point he was speaking so much and so quickly, that he choked and coughed.

Finally, I was able to get a question in.  “How old are you?”  I asked him.  I knew I’d thrown him and that’s what I needed to do.  “Um…I’m forty.” he said.  “Oh, you sound younger.” I took my opportunity to continue.

“You’re obviously a very intelligent and well spoken person and (insert name of organization) is lucky to have you.  But I’m finished listening, so I’m going to have to hang up now.”  And with that, we ended the conversation.  By this time I was actually feeling a bit of a headache coming on.  I swear that as much as he told me in that 20-25 minutes, much of it I didn’t hear because I was spending a lot of the time trying to figure out how I was going to stop him without being rude.  That’s something a lot of these callers depend on;  your politeness.  So everything he told me, was in fact, falling on deaf ears.  Was it worth the effort?

I’d guess they’ll tell you that it is worth it, because if they can convince one person to part with their money…well, you know the rest.  Sometimes these people treat their causes like religion;  they believe in it so much that they spend all of their time and energy trying to convert everyone else around them, like religious fanatics.  And I don’t know what the answer is when it comes to how they can solicit funds without turning people off.

But it’ll be interesting to see if they ever call again.  And if they do, THEN what do I do??

IJ

I Don’t Have Time For Social Networking!!

Facebook, Inc.Image via Wikipedia

Okay, I admit I check into Facebook a few times a day. When I look at what motivates me to do so, I realize I just want to know what everyone is up to, and that’s what Facebook is for. But I don’t really update my own “What’s on your mind?” window very often, certainly not as much as some do. My thinking most of the time is “who cares what I’m doing?”

To tell you the truth, I don’t really want to know EVERYTHING everyone is doing. I don’t care to know each time someone has completed a puzzle or taken a quiz to find out what Star Trek character they are most like. I can’t really use gifts like virtual teddy bears, or for heaven’s sake, virtual glasses of wine! Don’t be so cheap, get me the real thing!!

The whole “social networking” thing seems to be something that has taken over a lot of lives. As much as I check into Facebook, I know of others who live and die by those websites, constantly updating their status, adding photos, taking those silly little quizzes or commenting on their friend’s activities. And some of my friends have literally hundreds of other “friends”. I’m wondering if they even know half of those people.

An interesting thing about Facebook is that it seems to have attracted quite a few of my generation and older, because we really DO want to connect up with old friends and acquaintances and we actually have that many, whereas you wonder how a 15-year-old could even know a couple of hundred people yet.

I’ve never signed up for Twitter, but it appears to be somewhat the same as far as constant updates and creating more connections. And it seems that every week or two, there is more news about some other social networking application or website.

Recently, CNet did an article about ten music-related social networking websites. You’re supposed to share your favourite music, update people on what you’re listening to and check out what they’re listening to as well. You can buy music and merchandise and concert tickets on some of them, and other sites will even offer up suggestions as to what new bands or artists you might like.

It’s exhausting to even think about.

Which leads me to wonder…how do people have time to do all of these things a hundred times a day? Along with continuous texting or playing with iPod applications (there’s another place to find all kinds of useless junk!), checking into Facebook and updating Twitter…how do they have time to even eat? It seems we’ve become a society that needs constant, 24-hour connectivity or entertainment…and we can’t get enough of it. As soon as some new gadget or software or website or application comes out, we’ve got to have it. We can watch movies or TV or play games anywhere these days on our own, private hand-held devices, we can phone or text anybody from anywhere, we can update our Facebook or Twitter accounts whenever or wherever we want.

A person from a third-world country would think we had become strange, alien addicts, permanently plugged into one device or another and always looking for more.

I’m sure psychologists are out there trying to determine what this behaviour is doing to us. On the face of it, connecting with friends seems like a pretty harmless thing…but it really isn’t just about connecting with friends anymore for many people as far as I can see. It has become a rather narcicisstic, self-indulgent, me-important way of life for many, and what does that say about us?

There are a couple of people in my own inner circle who refuse to have anything to do with technology, and of course I laugh at them for not being “with the times”. But the times they are a changin’ rather quickly and I’m not sure that I completely disagree with their stance. A part of me doesn’t want to get left behind or left wondering what this or that new confounded gadget is. The other part realizes that something is being lost by filling my brain and my time with all of this nonsense.

Maybe that’s why I enjoy golf so much.

I know it’s not just because of technology that I can’t turn my head off these days, but I don’t think it’s helping either. I worry about my kids having grown up in such an environment and my grandchildren, who are about to. No, I don’t have grandchildren yet, but already I’m worried about them! Younger generations have not had the benefit of a computer-less life as those of my generation and older have. They don’t know about “boredom” or peace and quiet, they don’t know how to create games from nothing but a pile of rocks or sticks. How many times have they sat on the edge of a stream in the wilderness dipping their feet into the cool water? Many of them would likely find that laughably dull.

I don’t reject technology, obviously, or I wouldn’t be sitting here typing this blog. But as with anything in life, there has to be a little balance.

Maybe I’ll start a new Facebook group called “Turn The Gadgets Off and Go Outside!”
Probably wouldn’t go over well.

IJ

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