I'm fiftysomething, and I'm joining Facebook. You got a problem with that?

Innovation, the Internet, gadgets, and more.
March 8 2007 6:10 PM

Facebook for Fiftysomethings

I'm unfriendly, solitary, and 30 years older than everyone else on the site. But could social networking work for me anyway?

(Continued from Page 2)

But after Slate editorial assistant Christopher Beam friended me, I finally experienced the magic that is promised by social networks. One of Chris' more than 240 friends friended me in turn and wrote me a note. We exchanged a few messages, and then I saw in News Feed that following my lead, he joined the group of night owls. In response, I sent him a Facebook gift, an icon of a teddy bear, and encouraged him to get a stuffed animal and get to bed earlier. He in turn sent me a Facebook gift, the image of the backside of a troll doll (at least it wasn't an engagement ring or roll of toilet paper). I now felt as if I had truly joined the new world.

I finally worked up the nerve to friend one of my unknown college classmates, a fellow journalist. I hoped she'd take pity on me when I sent a short message explaining that I was doing a story on Facebook. She promptly accepted my request. I saw on her profile that she was very involved with alumnae affairs—in her Facebook photo album, there was a picture of her with two classmates I did recognize. After I Googled her, I discovered she was on the organizing committee of our—oh my God!—our 30th college reunion, which I hadn't realized was coming up in June. I had moved a little more than a year ago and, obviously, the college had lost me. It seemed appropriate—I was lost and alienated during the time I was there.

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If only there had been Facebook when I was in school! That way, I could have skipped years of loneliness. The Michigan State University professors found that even morose students, such as I was, end up making social connections in spite of themselves when they sign up for Facebook. If I had had Facebook, I would have known all along that my reunion was coming up. Of course, now that there is Facebook, and everyone can stay in touch, and look at one another's  photo albums, and see one another's haircuts as the years go on, reunions are going to be a lot less interesting.

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