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The Fourth Wall

Get Off My Lawn: I’ve got Facebook friends in low places

You know, despite our many differences, every now and then we wind up trapped by the same sticky wickets.

For instance, lately I’ve been a disappointment to my wife’s family over a mutual decision we’ve made ... which is somehow become all my fault.

We don’t Facebook.

A couple of weeks ago, we received an email from my stepmother-in-law asking, once again, for us to become “friends” and join some sort of Facebook “group.”

I avoided the temptation to respond by saying that a) we’re already family … you want us to be “friends,” too?; and/or b) we’re not really sure we want to be part of a group that would have us as members. But I’m already seen in some quarters as a grouch ... you bet your life there’s need to make it worse.

(Now, it’s about here that I should explain why I get blamed for our social media standoffishness stance: I do all the computering in our household — and when I say “all,” I mean all. My wife looks at computers the way George H.W. Bush looked at broccoli … she knows many people enjoy it, but that doesn’t mean she has to be one of them.)

I thought about George the Elder the other day when catching snippets of the appearance by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg (depending on your view of history) before Senate and House committees.

It was back in 1992 when GHWB, while on a re-election campaign stop, was astonished after encountering that confounding piece of technology known as the grocery store checkout scanner.

I’m not suggesting this was the moment when then-President Bush was destined to become ex-President Bush, but his apparent disconnect with the modems of everyday life echoed through the halls of Congress in the (to be charitable) rudimentary questions lobbed at Zuckerberg.

It’s not difficult to imagine members of whatever “generation” have recently become voters looking down at the talking vegetables on their screens and asking: “These guys are running the country?”

This.

But I digressed … mostly because I shuddered at the thought of what story the Brothers Grimm would have written featuring a stepmother-in-law.

It’s not just family members, though, who want us to be friends in an alternate universe. I’ve recently been asked to check out the Facebook page for a reunion being held by former employees at a newspaper I worked at in the mid-1980s.

As you might have guessed, this concept has little appeal to me. Reuniting with past coworkers (or, for that matter, classmates) that you haven’t seen for 30-35 years seems like too much work. With any luck, we’re all different people than we were back then — so sharing war stories that elicit a nodding smile would send me searching for the nearest checkout line.

But they have my email now, which means that even if I don’t fly across the country for a one-day “celebration” of times (and people) mostly forgotten, they’ll be able to keep track of me.

It’s an unsettling notion. As was seeing co-workers deep-dive to discover whether their Facebook lives have been shared with Cambridge Analytica or other dementors buried within the recesses of the internet — in yet another reminder of how it’s always the hidden dangers that feed on our pursuit of happiness.

I was in pursuit recently of a more tangible form of happiness — a new desk for my home office. (It’s more of a home “corner” of a storage room, actually … some castles being smaller than others.)

After surfing through options at various websites, I put the task away for the time being — only, before you could say Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon three times fast, I suddenly had promotions for office furniture in my side mirror as I traveled the information superhighway.

As I understand it, it’s a tactic called “pervasive ad targeting,” wherein if you happen to check out the price of a desk or a gallon of milk, the internet registers your interest and gloms onto you like a death-eater.

In most of the wily ways of the worldwide web, however, I’m a proud Luddite of the Belichickian tribe — so named for the New England Patriots coach who dismissed social media questions by saying he isn’t interested in “Snapbook” or “InstaFace.” Therefore, my stepmother-in-law and my former coworkers will continue to be disappointed with my (and, by extension, my wife’s) lack of an actual presence in their virtual lives.

When it comes to social media, I’m like those squirrels being studied at Berkeley — given a nut, then pausing to decide whether to eat it or save it for later. ChatSpace is a treat that can wait … unless I decide I’ve had my fill of being an internet consumer.

Because there’s little doubt that this week, I’ll be bombarded with online promos for the George H.W. Bush Library Center … which lists a Houston apartment building as its home.

(A few of you will get that; maybe we should form a Facebook group.)

Mail Tribune senior designer Robert Galvin can be reached (whether he likes it or not) at rgalvin@rosebudmedia.com.

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