Facebook Users: Where Do You Belong?

It has been four years since I joined the 1.19 billion Facebook users. Throughout this period, I have observed very distinct behavior patterns of people who regularly use Facebook. After much rumination, sleepless nights, and obsessive floor pacing (well, not really), I categorized them into the following groups:

Braggy: For some, Facebook is a platform for bragging. These boasting comments are usually veiled as status updates.

Just threw together a Herb Crusted Beef Rib Roast with Pinot Noir Jus before taking little Kylie to oboe lessons.

Finished running 16.2 miles in 11 minutes. Who wants to join me tomorrow?

Sometimes, Braggy posts are written in a tired voice, as though being wonderful is exhausting.

While it’s hard getting up at 2 a.m. to squeeze in my four-hour total body workout, followed by preparing breakfast for the family, I know staying healthy for my family is important.

Last night James spelled Lieutenant! And he’s only 22 months old! I knew not allowing him to watch TV would reap loads of benefits. While it can be exhausting never having a break for myself, look at the fruit of my labor.

Literal Status Updates: Literal Status Updates give you a play-by-play account of the Facebook user’s day: what they are currently doing, what they are thinking, what’s on their agenda for the day. Literal Status Update Facebook users take the what’s on your mind? or what’s your status? question from Facebook quite literally. Literal Status Updates can include comments on ball games and TV shows the Facebook user is watching as they write their post.

At the grocery store.

C’mon Eli! Another interception?!

Time for lunch.

Making steak and potatoes for dinner. (With a glass of wine, of course. LOL!)

A sub-category of Literal Status Updates are Weather Posts – for those of us who live in windowless houses.

Snow!

Three inches so far and it’s still snowing.

19 degrees out! Brrrr!

Frequent Complaining Posts: Now, we are all prone to complain. Life ain’t easy, and commiseration can be soothing. The once-in-a-while-grumble is NOT included in the Frequent Complaining Posts category. It’s the daily gripe that falls into this group. Frequent Complaining Posts are similar to Literal Status Updates except they have a negative ring to them. For some people, Facebook is their way to share every sniffle and cough, every slight injustice that crosses their path. What’s most intriguing about the Frequent Complaining Posts is how these Facebook users are so eager to complain that they stop whatever they are doing to post  – whether it is while driving, or when they’re at work.

Another cold! Just when I was starting to feel better.

Grocery store is out of my favorite peanut butter. Are you kidding me?

Another sleepless night.

The Suspenseful Posts: These statuses leave you hanging. They are meant to make you wonder what on earth has happened, and are probably intended to have you checking back for updates.

So excited!

Can’t stop crying.

Best day EVER!

My poor hubby!

Sometimes the follow-up information to The Suspenseful Post is still very vague, especially when the original post was one of concern. While we understand privacy, it’s perplexing why the Facebook user who writes The Suspenseful Post in the first place would then keep the situation secretive. So you want us to know that you can’t stop crying, but you don’t want us to know why? Or What happened to your husband? What are we supposed to do with this information?

Political Posts: Are just that: statements about a political topic – which usually garners several supportive comments and “likes” as well as outraged responses. Things never end well, and opinions are rarely altered. De-friending over Political Posts is not uncommonSome Facebook users are regular Political Posters, while others stay away from the topics entirely – playing Switzerland in a messy war zone.

The Regular Rants: Just as with complaining, we all have a tendency to rant about a situation. The Regular Rants are akin to Frequent Complaining Posts, but with more of an edge. In these posts, however, the Facebook user’s anger seeps through their words. Regular Rants typically include lots of capital letters and exclamation points.

Could the guy driving in front of me go any slower? People older than 80 SHOULD NOT BE ALLOWED TO DRIVE.

[insert name] is an idiot and I don’t know how ANYONE could be STUPID enough to vote for him!!

I can’t believe I went to college for THIS! What WAS I THINKING?

The Obsessive Topic: These Facebook users have a specific interest, issue, or cause that consumes them. Examples include a hobby, animal welfare, diet, a particular movement (such as gun rights or immigration reform), their pet, or a current event. When is it considered an Obsessive Topic? When the Facebook user posts at least once a day, every day about said topic. Pictures and links to unprofessional websites are common, as are the Facebook user “liking” their own status.

While every Facebook user has the tendency to dip their toes into each of these categories, others jump in cannonball style. Facebook seems to understand this, and has created a function that allows users to hide status updates from those habitual Political Posters, Regular Ranters and Frequent Complainers.

In spite of these behavior patterns, there are still Wonderful Posts – the comedic ones that make you burst out laughing, the posts with the pictures of your friends’ kids in silly Halloween costumes, the updates on ill friends, or the pictures of exotic vacations you someday hope to go on yourself. The Wonderful Posts are why I remain on Facebook, even though my kids watch television, I don’t cook Herb Crusted Beef Rib Roast with Pinot Noir Jus, and I could care less what Eli Manning is doing right this very minute.

Growing Old

All I could see was the top of her silvery-blue hair. She was creeping her boat of a car inch by inch into the parking spot, like a barge navigating its way on a canal. I sighed and glanced at the time. So far she had been working on this arduous task for three minutes. Several cars had lined up behind mine.

In true New York fashion, someone laid on their horn. Silvery-Blue Hair’s car came to an abrupt halt and she looked in her rear view mirror, confused. I should have given her an encouraging smile, but I too am a New Yorker, so all I did was raise my eyebrows hoping she could read my thoughts of, “C’mon lady!”

Silvery-Blue Hair faced forward. The car moved a millimeter. Progress was being made! I could almost fit my car around hers if she would just –

Wait! Oh no! What was she doing? Why were her reverse lights on? It doesn’t need to be straight honey! Just. Park. Your. Car.

The jerk laid on his horn a second time. Someone else joined in. This time, Silvery-Blue Hair was not daunted. She was too focused – too determined – to get her Buick Lesabre in the spot. Her little hands were putting the car’s power steering to the test. Suddenly, the car lurched forward and she turned off the engine.

Hurray! I stepped on the gas and sped past her, only to stop behind another car.  This time an elderly man was reversing out of a spot.  Where was I? On the set of Cocoon? Painstakingly, the gentleman eased his car backwards. He looked straight ahead, as though he was assuming – trusting- other drivers to give him the right of way. We did of course, but not without groaning, throwing our arms up in the air, or banging our foreheads on our steering wheels.

At last, he was out of his spot and gliding ahead. He looked ridiculously small in such a huge car, his hands positioned at ten and two. I was now able to drive around him, and I did so deftly. Wasn’t I just the coolest, spunkiest driver ever?

Then it struck me. Decades ago, Silvery-Blue Hair could have been me: impatient, patronizing in thought, in a hurry to run to the grocery store before having to shuttle her children to an activity. Likewise, the elderly man could have been just like my husband: working long hours to provide for his family, young, strong and handsome, driving a sporty car with ease.

All this meant, of course, that someday we would be them: frail, uncertain, and slow. In a few decades, I could be trying to maneuver my car (a car that used to be easier to drive) into parking spots that now seemed much too small – while irritable, young drivers like myself beeped their horns and rolled their eyes. I was ashamed.

Feeling sentimental, later that day I asked my ten year old daughter if she would take care of me when I was old.  Suddenly, the idea of growing old seemed very near and real.  I pictured my daughter as she is now, only taller, cradling my arm as she eases me into the passenger seat of her car.

My daughter was quiet for a moment before answering.

“I’ll be too busy with my own family to take care of you,” she said, “but don’t worry. I’ll visit you in the nursing home … as long as we’re not on vacation.”

Move over Silvery-Blue Hair lady, I just may need a ride.

You’re Not So Different From Your Car

The Underground Writer

Unlike an aged cheddar or bottle of Balvenie, people and automobiles generally don’t improve with age. As my husband once said after visiting my great aunt in a nursing home, 

“There is nothing glamorous about growing old.”

While attending graduate school, I drove an ancient Honda Accord that was held together by a lot of prayer and encouragement. The cassette player would run even when the car was turned off. Rain would get trapped in the moonroof and proceed to gush onto my lap when I put the car in reverse – soaking me to the point where I would have to go inside and change. It also seemed that as soon as I had one of its parts replaced, another would decide to break.

How I hated phone calls from my mechanic! As soon as the phone would ring I would squeeze my eyes shut and brace myself. He always started…

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A Guide To Gift Giving

The season of gift giving has arrived! As we elbow our way through crowded malls, ruminating over prices and searching for the proper present, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. What if she already has this? Would he be a large or a medium? Wait. Did she say she was or wasn’t allergic to peanuts?

While I certainly cannot provide assistance with all of these common shopping dilemmas, I can share some gift giving wisdom I have learned throughout the years.

1. If the gift is to be opened in front of a large group of people (say an office party, or a gathering of extended family members), avoid giving underwear. As a teenager, my grandmother gave me a pair of white brief underwear the size of Alaska. As I unfolded the underpants and held them up at arms length, an awkward silence filled the room.

2. Regifting is tricky. (Personally, I can’t help but feel the person who is receiving the regifted gift has been duped.) If you are a regifter (“not that there’s anything wrong with that”) remember to keep track of who originally gave you the gift. I know someone who received the gift she had given that person. That’s right: The regifter regifted the gift back to the original giver.

3. Gift Cards are safe, safe, safe. Somewhere along the way, gift cards developed the stigma of not having enough thought put into the purchase of them. Huh? Picture being in a store and someone handing you fifty dollars to spend in the store at that moment. How luxurious! However, just be careful and make sure the gift card is appropriate for the recipient. Giving a pacifist an annual membership to the NRA would go over like a lead balloon, as would presenting your vegan boss with a gift card to Omaha Steaks.

4. For those friends/family who have birthdays around Christmas/Chanukah, never, ever do a “this is your birthday AND Christmas (Chanukah) gift! Unless, of course, the gift is extravagant. (I’m talking new car extravagant.) Handing someone a tin of flavored popcorn while singing, “Merry Christmas and Happy Birthday!” makes the receiver feel a bit gypped. Trust me, by combining these two events, you’re not fooling anyone.

5. When buying gifts for children, decide who you want to like you more: the kid or parent. While practical gifts are generally despised by children (my husband still remembers sulking over the bathrobe he received as a Christmas gift when he was eight years old), they are very appreciated by parents. Toys that kids love – drum sets or life-like sounding fire engines –  can drive parents batty. Prior to purchasing a gift for a child, decide beforehand what you want to accomplish.

In conclusion, as much as we may think that we’ve received some bad gifts over the years, if we’re honest with ourselves, chances are we have given just as many bad gifts too. So we need not get indignant and hold grudges. Basically – don’t sweat it. There is always next year.

Hand Wash? Hogwash!

Picture this: you are invited to someone’s home for dinner. After greeting you warmly at the door, the hostess excuses herself to use the bathroom. You hear the toilet flush and within seconds the bathroom door immediately opens and she exits. Your hostess proceeds to prepare food for dinner – without washing her hands. Would you want to eat her food? Call me picky or unreasonable, but I would suddenly develop food allergies to everything she had touched as an excuse not to put that food in my mouth.

Hand washing seems pretty intuitive. It’s hardly a complicated matter. Our hands get dirty. We wash them. The end. In addition, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) bombards us with facts on why we need to wash our hands, and how we should wash our hands. We all know hand washing stops the spread of viruses and nasty infections. We see commercials on TV, advertisements in magazines, and there are even signs in public restrooms reminding employees to soap up before returning to work.

Surprisingly, the basic concept of hand washing is a relatively new tidbit of disease prevention knowledge. While this controversial subject (yes – it was very controversial) took root in 1847, I tend to believe there were people in previous centuries who discovered that washing one’s hands was a good thing. There had to have an English lass in the Middle Ages who found that when she washed her hands after cleaning the family outhouse, that mysterious stomach virus stopped plaguing her household. But since we don’t know the name of that wise maiden, we give credit to the person who first publicly proclaimed the benefits of using soap and water on our hands.

That person was a Hungarian obstetrician named Ignaz Semmelweis. Iggie was working in a Vienna hospital when he noticed something rather peculiar. Women who had their babies delivered by medical students often developed fatal infections after giving birth. Prior to Iggie entering the scene, these deaths were blamed on “an imbalance of humours in the body”. Humours were considered the four chief fluids of the body: blood, phlegm, yellow bile, and black bile. Basically, humours were regarded as the present day ying and yang of human bodily fluids.

While the rest of the obstetrical staff wrote the deaths off to those pesky humours (remember – this was before the existence of personal injury lawyers), Iggie was less convinced.

“Humours schmumours!” Iggie announced. (Actually, he didn’t. Or maybe he did.)

Iggie knew something more was going on than just the four chief body fluids getting out of whack. He decided to investigate.

Lo and behold, Iggie discovered that prior to delivering babies, the medical students were dissecting cadavers. Now, when I gave birth, my doctor practically put on a hazmat suit. But in 1847, medical students performed autopsies on dead bodies before moseying their way upstairs to the birthing room where they proceeded to deliver babies without washing their hands. Let’s simplify this: medical students had their hands deep inside the open cavities of a dead person before putting their unwashed, (and of course ungloved – they weren’t invented yet) hands deep inside “ladies’ cavities”.

Feeling a bit squirmy, ladies? Me too.

Iggie denounced this practice and mandated that all medical students wash their hands in a chloride lime solution after autopsies and prior to delivering babies. The maternal death rate plummeted.

Problem solved, right? Nope. Because nothing is ever simple (and people have a tendency to be stubborn jerks), the medical staff at the Vienna hospital derided Iggie.

“Have you heard what that Dr. Ignaz Semmelweis is proposing?” a Dr. Dorfmeister said while dining over Weiner Schnitzel.

“It’s outrageous!” Dr. Herrmann said, “Pass me a piece of that Gugelhupf, will you? Washing hands after performing autopsies! What’s next? Washing our hands after using the bathroom and coughing?”

“Hahaha. Oh, Dr. Herrmann. You’re such a card!”

The medical staff ridiculed and mocked poor Iggie. Soon he was dismissed from the Vienna hospital. Upon leaving (and the subsequent cessation of hand washing practices) maternal death rates skyrocketed again. But the medical staff continued to blame those darn humours for the women’s deaths, and not the remnants of dead body particles on the hands of medical students.

Iggie was unable to find work in the Vienna community. No one wanted to hire a handwasher. He moved to Budapest, where he continued to tout his hand washing practices. Similar to Vienna, Budapest doctors were not keen on the idea of washing hands in between delivering babies either. They thought it took too much time, and frankly, they would have to admit that all of those deaths were their fault.

Sadly, the continuous rejection of Iggie’s revolutionary discovery took its toll, and eventually he was admitted to a mental hospital where he died shortly thereafter. The benefits of hand washing weren’t accepted until decades after Iggie’s death.

Today, Dr. Ignaz Semmelweis is heralded as the pioneer of infection control. Let’s all think of him when we wash our hands later.