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by Tara Cohen

My friend told me she does not like Facebook, and I started hyperventilating. Ok, maybe not truly hyperventilating, more like moderately over-ventilating, but still, I was worked up. I mean, how can anyone not like Facebook? Admittedly, I spend far too much time on Facebook. I realize I’m a Facebook junkie. A Facebook addict. A Facebook fiend. It’s seriously become a problem. The quietest guy I knew in all of my grade-school days Instant Messaged me asking if I worked for Facebook because I was on so much. So now I use the “offline” setting so people can’t see how often I’m there. Like I said: it’s a problem.

I’m on Facebook so much that I made it my browser’s home page. I cannot sit down at my computer without spending at least five minutes responding to wall posts and status updates, application suggestions and group invitations, game nudges and friend requests. I live on Planet Facebook.

So when my friend “Miranda” (who all but made me swear on my iMac not to use her real name) said she just isn’t crazy about Facebook, I had this flash of deja vu and found myself thinking of my mother-in-law.

I’ve been on my mother-in-law for ages to learn to use a computer. A few years ago, she went so far as to accept a hand-me-down from my niece, but all it did was sit in the corner and make her nervous. My husband Marty thought she was afraid if she hit the wrong key she might accidentally bomb China, and honestly, I don’t think he was far off. She called me for advice, and the conversation went something like this:

MiL: Tara, I just don’t know about this thing.
Me: Mom, we’re coming down in a week, and I’ll teach you how to use it.
MiL: Well, bring a new whatchamacallit for the AOL with you because the one I have is the wrong size.
Me: What?
MiL: It’s the wrong size. It’s not going to fit the computer.
Me: What??
MiL: The thing. The whoosie. The…the disc. It’s the AOL ninety nine, and the computer is an oh-two. It’s the wrong size.
Me: Wait…what???

We visited, and, what do you know, the disc was just the right size for the drive. I set up an AOL account, shut down the computer, and started from square one: Turn on the machine. As the desktop flickered into life, my mother-in-law looked skeptically at the various icons and said, “Ok. Now, which one is for the airplane reservations?” And so we started again:

Me: Mom, plane reservations are on websites, not actually on your computer.
MiL: What?
Me: Well, we start by accessing the internet using something called a browser.
MiL: What??
Me: If the computer is your house, then the browser is your car, and you drive the browser to the internet, which is the mall. That has websites, which are like stores.
MiL: Wait…what???

In fairness, my desire to have my mother-in-law use a computer is a little selfish. I’m comfortable with computers. I grew up with them, starting with my dad’s first home IBM, a monster of a machine, complete with the ability to turn the “green screen” to “amber” with just the flip of one glowing switch! (Hey, when your folks won’t buy you an Atari, you make do.) The upshot is that, after a lifetime of computer use, my internet connection goes down for an hour and I’m having heart palpitations. My mother-in-law, on the other hand, was born during the Hoover administration, uses a corded phone, and does not, to my knowledge, own a single CD. I realize we speak two different languages, but I still just can’t get past wanting to get her online.

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