Over the last who knows how many months, we have all been anxious for human contact and in-person communication. The age of technology has helped quite a bit with the virtual visits but hugs and those grandchildren kisses are missed by everyone. On the very rare occasion that we see each other, we settle for elbow taps or, in our case, tushy bumps, to avoid the possibility of getting each other sick. Such crazy times. I am very lucky to have Grandpa here with me, but we both look forward to the Instacart guy and the Amazon delivery person to see how they are doing — to get another perspective!
I enjoy social media, especially Facebook. It’s where I can stay in touch with people, reunite with old friends from my childhood and watch videos of dogs and babies as if life was quite normal outside of these doors.
As I sit with my phone and scroll though the pictures, jokes and comments I start to wonder if I’m commenting enough? Did I send too many smiley emojis? Do people I don’t know personally think I am too friendly or not friendly enough? The dilemma of social media’s social graces is perplexing. Perhaps I can share some of my thoughts that guide me through this so I avoid the faux pas pitfalls.
For me, there are three types of Facebook friendships. First there are the family and close friends who are just like family. We have actually met them on more than one occasion and know them to be real, living, breathing humans whom we have hugged and kissed. They are the group that we can depend on for a kind comment or in some cases an “Oy” and an eye roll. Acceptable behavior in either case, if you have seen our videos. Some days I get a call saying they missed a few posts and they will binge watch when they get time, which I find extremely gracious. The rule for comments and “likes etc.” are there are no rules with this group. Throw caution to the wind and tell it like it is, but make it always kind. Always add some X’s and O’s for those virtual hugs and kisses.
The second group is made up of friends far away. We may not have seen them as much, even when it was safer, because of distance. But there is a true mutual admiration society we all belong to. Many are people I knew in my school days and are reconnecting, which is truly amazing and fun. Again, the rules are pretty lax with group two as they know we are very happy to see their dog Theo in an armchair covered with blankets or their granddaughter Stinky baking cookies. Lots of people look forward to reactions, otherwise why post something? I say let them know you are enjoying what they share with a nice comment or a smiley face. X’s and O’s are also more than acceptable for group two, in my humble opinion.
Now we have the third group, which is much more popular in these times than before. This I call my “I bet we would have been friends growing up group” as a lot of the newer friendship requests have come from people who either know of me or know people I know. Confusing? Not really. There are many groups that you can join with common interests, like music from the ’60s, or wonderful hometown pages where the names are familiar but the faces have changed a bit in the last 50 years or so. Before I accept a friend request from someone I don’t know personally, I read their information and review our mutual friends.
I will comment and smile at everyone’s posts if I see them. If I see a political opinion that may be not in my personal wheelhouse of ideas, I tend to just scroll past it and look for something else that keeps us in the friend loop. Everyone in my sphere of kindness, gets X’s and O’s making that rule applicable across the spectrum for me.
Whatever your level of comfort is on social media, be aware that not everyone is a possible friend or even acquaintance. There are cat fishers out there who will try to take advantage of your kindness and your open heart. Be careful, and if you feel the slightest discomfort, remember your gut is usually right. To all my friends, near and far, thank you for keeping Grandpa and me in your thoughts, and we hope to see you soon. Stay safe and well. Peace.
Marla Luckhardt is a Brentwood resident who works with several local senior care and advocacy groups. Reach her at email@example.com.