Give someone a fish, and they will eat for a day. Teach someone to fish, and they will eat for a lifetime. You don’t want to be bothered by anyone ever again? Teach them how to use Facebook.
When our mother wanted to join this popular social networking site, her innocent offspring never dreamed that
–they would have a third contender for Internet time on the laptop
–drama serials would no longer vie for space with football matches on the TV
–their mother would learn to employ the phrase “two minutes” in the same flexible manner that youngsters use.
It’s not that she didn’t use the Internet before. In fact, she was the first one to start using it in the days when its chief social service was email, becoming electronically connected before her children did. It’s just that learning the ropes of social networking is a totally different ball game from email, especially when you’re the type of person who never, ever clicks without knowing beforehand what it will do. (I think that is the factor that distinguishes youngsters’ learning curves from their parents’. The former learn how to get around websites on their own but the latter are reluctant to venture into the unknown. And before net-savvy parents blast me into oblivion, let me add that this is not a universal rule.) Due to this reason, I made a habit to take something to do as I took up my post as chief advisor alongside my mother as she made her debut on Facebook. I must say, her excitement level was much higher than that of her been-there-done-that kids:
Brother (in a matter-of-fact tone): “I thinned out my friends list recently, and I still have 400 Facebook contacts.”
Me (dully): “I have around 250.”
Mama (her face glowing with enthusiasm): “I have three!”
Every person who has travelled with their parents along their Facebook learning curves has had one feature in particular which turns out to be tricky. With my friend, it was the “notifications” feature, where you get alerts whenever someone interacts with you. Her mother, an official personal assistant who uses the Internet every day, was disturbed by this:
“But why do they tell me about it? I didn’t ask them to tell me.”
“Ammi, it’s so you know what they’re doing.”
“But I don’t want to know what they’re doing!”
My “tricky” bit came along one day when I saw my mother get up from the laptop and head towards the phone, instinct told me to ask what she was doing; usually nothing short of an earthquake could interrupt a session of her favourite online game. My gut feeling turned out to be right:
Mama: “I’m calling our Internet service provider.”
Mama: “The Internet isn’t working.”
Me: “What in the Internet isn’t working?”
Notice that I knew what question to ask and did not take her assessment of the status of the Internet to be final (that’s chief advisor experience talking). I stopped her from making the call by explaining how a faulty Internet connection was different from a website being down and how a website was hosted on different servers from the third-party applications featured on it. Chief advisor Iqra saves the day! Or, well, one call centre employee’s day, anyway.
A usual day goes like this:
Me: “When the load shedding is over and the electricity comes back at 6pm, I’ll go write that on Facebook.”
Mama: “Sure you will, but at 6:10pm. My game crops are going to wither otherwise.”
Me: “All right.”
Mama (later): “Hmm, Anam’s crops are all withered and she’s been neglecting her other games, too. She usually keeps up with her games. I wonder what has happened. I’ll have to ask when I meet her tomorrow.” (Later, reading aloud): “Support us in the fight against…but why are they sending me this? How did this get into my inbox?”
Me (coming over): “See, over there, it says ‘sent to all members of…’. You’re a member of this group.”
Mama: “I never signed up for this group!”
Me (clicking over to the group): “See here? ‘Remove as member’. Why would it say that if you hadn’t already joined?”
Mama: “But I didn’t join this!” (Pointing at an affiliated group): “I meant to join that one!”
I may have lost online time but I got a friendly Internet presence who gets genuinely excited over virtual roses sent to her by her daughter—a fair exchange any day. I like seeing her around. And the best thing is that she no longer wonders why on earth we spend so much time on Facebook because she clocks in regular hours herself!