I recently received a “friend request” from someone I’ve known and loved all my life, but never expected to tag in a photo: my 84-year-old grandfather.
My parents, who are both computer programmers, had for years discouraged my grandfather from buying a computer. They told him he’d have no use for it at his age.
But when the Jewish Community Housing for the Elderly in Brighton offered a Facebook class, my grandfather Simon Belenkiy — a former airplane engineer in the Soviet Union — took matters into his own hands and signed up. A week later, he sent my brother a friend request with a “wall” message that said, “I like looking at your photos! We are busy in the garden. We planted tomatoes, cucumbers and flowers. You should come for harvest time. We want to see you. Love. Grandpa.”
My brother must have been surprised, because he posted back with one word:
“Grandpa?” he asked.
Indeed, Grandpa’s virtual life had begun, and soon he couldn’t believe the number of people who were asking to be friends with him.
“I don’t even know who these people are,” he told me.
Grandpa and Grandma’s primary interest on Facebook is checking out our pictures — especially the photos of my boyfriend and my brother’s girlfriend, whom they have not met in person. The next time I visited my grandparents’ house, I found a stack of Facebook photos printed in color on 8-by-10-inch computer paper.
“We prefer to keep pictures in photo albums,” Grandma said.
“Not such a bad idea,” I agreed. “If Facebook ever goes out of business, losing all the digital images, at least we’ll still have a few of them surviving on paper.”
Seeing my grandfather’s success on Facebook, my grandmother picked up the competitive spirit and decided she needed to go along to the next Facebook class.
As for me, I considered announcing my grandfather’s entrance into social networking with a “status update,” something like: “My 84-year-old grandfather is now friends with me on Facebook!”