Friendship with Facebook

facebook
facebook (Photo credit: sitmonkeysupreme)

I am reading with just a teeny bit of skepticism about the class action suit brought against Facebook.  It will reportedly “put some cash in your pocket” if you’ve been in a “Sponsored Story” on Facebook, according to assorted sources. Snopes allows that this is not a hoax, but I’m not spending the money yet. Actually, I don’t have the time, what with trying to plow through all the uninvited posts (read: ads) on my page from people who are not my Friends. There is no way to un-Friend them. I mean, Merle Norman of Seneca? Voto Latino? I am all for Voto Latino (something I consider entirely my own business and certainly never told Facebook) but just between you and me, I thinkMerle Norman cosmetics are hazardous to your health.

Back to the class action business. No offense to our system of justice, but the class is too big and the action unlikely. Facebook lawyers are too many and too well funded, and the point of the thing too obscure. Unless you’re a lawyer yourself it’s probably not worth your time. Maybe that’s the upside: create jobs for lawyers. But as for all of us minions in the class? Don’t bet on getting rich.

In the umpteen class action suits I’ve been a part of — Earthlink, Bank of America, a bunch of other questionable corporate entities, the most I’ve gotten so far is a free lunch en route to a deposition for the anti-Earthlink lawyers. Don’t recall many checks.

I trust Facebook about as much as I understand them, which is not a bit. The abuse of “sponsored story” users may or may not be any greater than the day-to-day abuse of us ordinary users, who remain at the mercy of whatever programmer geek is in charge this month. But as long as I’m enjoying the occasional posts of assorted Facebook Friends — half of whom I’ve not seen in real time for years — Facebook probably owes me nothing.

It’s still fine if they want to send me a check.

Immortality in the ethernet

Is it possible ever to die in cyberspace?

I was recently urged by Facebook to do something obtuse because my friend Josephine (pseudonymed for very good reason here) is doing it and knows I will love it. Hmm. There’s just one small problem here: Josephine has been dead for well over a year. You’d think Facebook might have noticed.

Yet, there she is, smiling her gentle smile, alive and welcoming to the Facebook friends who surely wish it were so. What to do? Ask her daughters to wipe their mom off the pages of the Facebook planet? Bookmark the page for the cheer it brings? Or try to ignore it lest it become spooky like those answering machine voices out of the past? I’m still pondering.

On the other hand, I more or less died to the cyberworld myself about six weeks ago. This was not an intentional — or even dignified — death. As a matter of fact, I had contracted not that long ago with my very alive, cyber-efficient friend Ryan to help me close my Blogspot page, fancy up this one, figure out all these widgety details and generally add interest and gravitas to my presence in cyberspace. For a while, progress was made toward all that. But life, and a manuscript, intervened.

Having promised the manuscript of my one-day book Perilous Times: An inside look at abortion before — and after Roe v Wade to the nice folks at YBK Publshing by September 1, I suddenly, seriously needed to finish the thing.  And the only way I could figure out how to accomplish such a feat — we’re talking 1,500 words a day with a few last-minute interviews tossed in — was just to drop out of cyberspace and into computerland until it was done. So my long-dormant Blogspot blog, some day destined to die, and the fits & starts of this WordPress incarnation of Boomers & Beyond have been hanging out, forlorn and ignored, lo these many weeks.

This sorry state of affairs is at least not quite as bad as the state of  my late lamented paid gig with True/Slant.com. My True/Slant page has been hanging, frozen, in space ever since Forbes bought the site & I declined to write for Forbes (full disclosure: they weren’t begging me anyway) more than two years ago. It’s confounding at best to try to do anything (“Follow me” indeed) or go anywhere else on True/Slant; that page is dying an undignified death indeed. Not to mention the fact that anyone stumbling across it could reasonably think, “Poor dear, she hasn’t had a new thought in 782 days”…. since the only thing moving on the page is the tabulator that says how many days it’s been since this post.

The manuscript is done. The book will happen. Life has resumed. And this page will now get back to the business of offering thoughts about life, health and the pursuit of justice of interest to boomers, post-boomers and perhaps miscellaneous others. Thanks for dropping by.

facebook engancha
facebook engancha (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Oh Yayy! A new social network! Togetherville targets 6 to 10-year-olds

First and second-graders, even third-graders who haven’t gotten to be Facebook regulars yet, can now Have Fun Online Together and Share Proud Moments With Friends through their Togetherville social network accounts.

“What we want to do is build good digital citizens,” says Togetherville founder and CEO Mandeep Dhillon.

God help us.

With the brewing controversies about Facebook and privacy, not to mention news stories about the dangers of cyberabuse, the last thing parents might want to do is let their children get into online social networking.

But Togetherville Inc., a Palo Alto startup that finished a test run last week, hopes to alleviate those fears with a social-networking service tailored to children ages 6 through 10.

The free service creates a secure network that gives children access to the benefits of social networking while giving parents oversight to make sure their kids are shielded from potential dangers until they are old enough to handle the Web.

No offense to Dhillon and his investors, but are we really ready to offer up a new generation to be “shielded from potential dangers…” by the operators of a social network while they are having fun sitting in front of a small screen all day sharing proud moments with their friends? Did Alice just fall down the rabbit hole?

On Togetherville, no one who is not authorized by the parent can contact the child. Nor can anyone outside the network gain access to a child’s information or postings, including through search engines.

There are adult Facebook members who are pressing for that same level of privacy. Parents create the account using their Facebook login information, but the Togetherville site operates in a separate world outside of Facebook.

However, children can exchange text messages with other friends in their Togetherville “neighborhood” and with authorized grown-ups through Facebook Connect. The text comes from a pre-written selection of “quips” like “Cool,” “Random” and “What planet are you from?”

The kids can create digital greeting cards, play games and watch approved video. But they can’t share links to outside sites or, for now at least, photos.

Dhillon said the company is working on generating revenue by buying and sharing virtual goods.

It is not Dhillon’s fault, I suppose, that Togetherville is launching into the world at a time when faith in Facebook is not exactly on an all-time high. If there are parents of 6- to 10-year-olds ready to believe that their children can be shielded from potential dangers once tethered to Togetherville, they must surely have spent the past few years in Wonderland with Alice.

Social networks unquestionably have benefits. Just don’t try to convince people right now that those benefits come without perils and frustrations. If they are shielded from dangers, are 6-year-olds ready for the frustrations? For instance. A few months ago, Facebook decided it didn’t want me to have access to my Friends any more. Oh, they can send me messages, and presumably if they haven’t hidden me they get my status updates. I get a few of their status updates too. I just can no longer access my Friend list because it has disappeared somewhere. Have you ever tried to find a real person involved with Facebook? The people behind the software are utterly unreachable.

This is the world to which 6- to 10-year olds will now be introduced. Fully shielded from danger, their parents are told…

Social-networking site Togetherville is designed for youngsters ages 6 to 10.

A Random Act of Kindness

“He wants my money, so I just gave him my wallet and told him, ‘Here you go,'” the victim recalls. The mugger was a teenager, the victim a 31-year-old social worker named Julio Diaz. As the teen began to walk away, Diaz told him, “Hey, wait a minute. You forgot something. If you’re going to be robbing people for the rest of the night, you might as well take my coat to keep you warm.”

So goes a story that my daughter Sandy somehow discovered and posted on her Facebook page recently. It was on NPR’s “Morning Edition” in May, 2008.

Julio Diaz has a daily routine. Every night, the 31-year-old social worker ends his hour-long subway commute to the Bronx one stop early, just so he can eat at his favorite diner.

But one night last month, as Diaz stepped off the No. 6 train and onto a nearly empty platform, his evening took an unexpected turn. He was walking toward the stairs when a teenage boy approached and pulled out a knife.

So Diaz gave him his wallet and his warm coat, invited him to dinner, and… well, you’ll have to read the story for yourself.

Sandy’s post evoked a long list of responses. Her husband, a hard-nosed newsguy T/S contributor who will remain nameless here, had the audacity to wonder aloud if the story might have been invented. (His wife and son threw something at him.)

I dug up the story, but surely didn’t ask NPR if it had been fact-checked. I mean, if you can’t believe NPR, who can you believe? Plus, with the relentlessness of today’s bad news, is a little good news welcome, or what?

Without giving it all away, we can report that the piece concludes,

“I figure, you know, if you treat people right, you can only hope that they treat you right. It’s as simple as it gets in this complicated world.”

This space argues that we can use all the news we can get about people treating people right. If you Google Julio Diaz, may he live long and prosper, you discover multiple pages of people who were inspired by, or even skeptical of, that story when it first appeared. But unless it’s wayyy down the scroll, no one has discredited it. If you should do so, by some cruel twist of historical revisionism, please don’t tell Sandy or me.

A Victim Treats His Mugger Right : NPR.