Facebook for the Over Fifties

I am relatively new to Facebook, first starting to use it in 2014. Since then, I have been amazed at the potential for error. Facebook has its own, unwritten rules, which everyone under the age of forty seems to be fully aware of, and everyone older struggles to grasp. I thought I would tell you what I have learned so far, but first, here is a post I wrote soon after starting:

A Facebook Lesson

I had cycled down to visit my mother. We sat on her sofa, slurping tea, when Mum said she could not see any of my photographs on Facebook. We spent some time looking at her computer (which is actually an ipad my brother lent her) but neither of us could work out what the problem was. Then she asked me why I never send her messages on Facebook. I explained that I would much rather use email, because I don’t really know what I’m doing and I might send them to the wrong place.

“Oh!” she said, “It’s easy, I’ll show you. Look, Ruth has posted a picture of chocolate, I’ll just send her the message ‘Ha,Ha,Ha’!” She did.

Then she realised that actually, she had not sent the message to Ruth. She had sent the message to somebody’s prayer request on one of her religious sites. All the other posts were things like, “I feel for you,” or, “God bless you in this time of need,” – then there was Mary Thompson: “Ha,Ha,Ha!” We couldn’t stop laughing. It was so funny and of course, neither of us had the first idea if it was possible to ‘unsend’ a message once it was sent. We laughed for ages, but it did rather illustrate my point…


Now, I have moved on a little from those early days. I do now use Facebook messenger. But there is much to learn along the way.

Such as: LOL does not stand for “Lots of Love.” It stands for “Laugh out Loud” and is therefore inappropriate to use as a comment when your daughter has shared bad news with you.

It is possible to change your privacy settings (which are found behind the little emblem that looks like a globe). If they are set to ‘only me’, then no one at all can see your posts/photos. So you might as well not bother, and write a diary instead.

People who send you a friendship request are not necessarily people who you once knew but seem to have forgotten. They are possibly complete strangers, collecting friends for a false identity, and should be avoided. Even people who are not your friends on Facebook can see everything you post on a public setting, so some things should be set for family or friends only. And be careful to notice if you are posting something on your timeline (which everyone can see) or in a private message. You can get into a lot of trouble if you get those in a muddle.

When your children post lots of photographs after a party/ holiday/event you didn’t attend; it is not polite to ‘like’ every single one. They find it annoying. In fact, if you weren’t at the event, they probably don’t mean for you to respond at all – and certainly writing a comment is very frowned upon. (Actually, writing comments on your children’s posts or their friends is usually the wrong thing to do. Even though you have changed Robbie’s nappies and watched him grow up; now he has a beard and a girlfriend, he does not necessarily want to be reminded of the time he spilt orange juice on your sofa. Best to just observe and keep quiet, I have found.)

Your children probably share things with their friends that we would’ve chatted about in our rooms, when our parents weren’t there. They are not necessarily things you want to see/hear, so it might be better to ask your child to change their settings so you have ‘restricted’ viewing. I find I really do not need to know everything tiny detail about my children – I like to pretend they are nice.

Humour on Facebook is a bit dangerous. It is possible to write something very funny, or slightly sarcastic, and people unexpectedly take offence. Or didn’t realise you were being ironic, and respond to your “as Doctor Who is now a woman, should we call her Nurse Who?” joke with worried comments about your attitude to women. Really, I have got this wrong so often, it’s just not worth posting. A joke gone wrong can attract a lot of hate mail. Sometimes I can’t resist, but it’s usually a disaster, and once it’s ‘out there’ there is no way to make people unsee it.

Then there are the angry Facebookers. People who are lovely, polite, calm people in real life, turn into rude protestors on social media. You mustn’t take their comments personally, and if you dislike what they say, it is possible to ‘unfollow’ them rather than lose their friendship.

As I learn more ‘rules’ I will let you know. Good luck! Oh, and do remember everyone can see what you post – someone I know (not me this time) said how disappointed she was when her niece got engaged because she preferred the old boyfriend. She didn’t realise that people other than her niece would see the comment. Oops!


  Anne E. Thompson is the author of several books. You can follow her blog at: anneethompson.com

Look out for her books on Amazon and in bookshops – who do you know that would like one for Christmas?

JOANNA – the story of a psychopath, an easy read gritty novel, that shows the reader how a psychopath thinks, and also how her actions impact her family. Because every psychopath has a mother – and how must that feel?


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