When my husband Marc recently tried to buy a beer at a local baseball game, the 18-year-old vendor demanded to see some I.D., but when Marc pulled out his Medicare card, the kid waved it away, insisting, “Driver’s license only.”
Describing the novel way he’d just been carded, Marc said, “This would be a Facebook moment—if I was on Facebook.”
He says that a lot. An awful lot. He’s not on Facebook or any other social-media platforms, despite being a tech whiz. I wouldn’t care so much, except he sounds so smug about it, just like all those irritating folks who went around recently bragging, “I’m the only person on the planet who’s never watched a single episode of Game of Thrones.” I wanted to dracarys the lot of them.
Unlike me, my husband is bored by pop culture. Social media hasn’t seduced him, either. He flirted briefly with Twitter to follow some think-tank wonks in Washington, but when random people started following him, he got pissy.
“Now I’m supposed to follow him back? What if I don’t want to? Why are all your friends following me? I’m not twittering anything they’d be interested in.”
“That’s what I said.”
“No, you said twittering.”
He shrugged, then asked nervously, “Is there a way I can take back a Like?”
“I don’t want to leave a trail.”
“What are you, an operative for the CIA?”
Who in This House Has Social-Media Cred?
I should probably admit right here how much I enjoy these exchanges. I get a rush whenever I get to demonstrate my superior grasp of the intricacies of social networks, like when our friend Rich mentions that his son met his fiancée on Tinder. Right on cue I can depend on Marc to say, “What’s Tinder?”
“It’s like Bumble.” Then I wait for it.
“Tinder and Bumble? Sounds like a law firm out of Dickens.”
It’s heartwarming that my husband of three decades doesn’t even know what a dating app is. He still thinks Grindr is another name for a hoagie. I love that about him, even if I have an uncharitable habit of posting photos of us with passive aggressive comments like, “Happy 35th anniversary to my husband. Too bad he’s not on Facebook to see this.”
I jumped all over social media 12 years ago right after being urged to do so at a workshop for middle-aged women reentering the workforce. (Or as they called it, “on-ramping,” something you can do when you’re not “circling back,” “thinking outside the box,” or “shifting a paradigm.”) For weeks I sped blithely down the information superhighway like a Formula One race car driver, until my son told me I was riding in the breakdown lane. Apparently I’d made the egregious Facebook faux pas by Liking, as he put it, “millions” of his posts. Six, to be exact.
“All my friends can see you. It’s humiliating,” he said. You would have thought I’d showed up at Open School Night dressed in Lady Gaga’s meat dress.
For good measure he added, “Facebook is for old people.”
All in the (Facebook) Family
A low blow. It’s not as if I type in all caps. I know better than to double space after a period. But at this point in my life—somewhere between menopause and death—embracing social media makes me feel like I’m not completely over the hill. My husband does not share these feelings. He makes pronouncements like “I wouldn’t know Dr. Dre from Dracula.” He reads the New York Review of Books; I read Reddit.
On the other hand, he’s the designated Mr. Fixit around here. Last weekend when my iPhone stopped downloading email, I panicked, because when it comes to understanding how anything actually works, I just might be the tiniest bit technology challenged. But I always know who to turn to, and it’s not the 11-year-old brainiac at the Apple Genius Bar. Marc’s the most tech savvy guy I know. He was browsing the Internet back in 1993 before anyone else I knew, running Mosaic before it begat Netscape. There were so few websites at the time that a list of them all actually fit into one handbook, and it wasn’t even as fat as an old-fashioned New York City phone book. More like the one for Ronkonkoma, a random small town on Long Island.
Marc studied the screen. “Google says you’ve maxed out on cloud storage. Why aren’t you deleting old email and photo files?”
“You’re supposed to do that?”
“You’ve got 4,672 emails all marked ‘important!’” he accused.
In my defense, I flagged them because I fully intend to go back and read them some day. What’s the rush? None of them dates further back than 2009.
Look Who’s Following Me (on Twitter, that is)?
So maybe that’s why I sometimes lord it over him a little, like the time I told him I’d acquired a surprising new Twitter follower. “The Mooch is following me,” I said.
Marc was horrified. “Anthony Scaramucci? Trump’s guy? Why would you be friends with him?”
“You don’t have friends on Twitter. That’s Facebook.”
“But you unfriended him, right?”
“You really don’t get this stuff, do you?” I said with pity.
One day Marc’s cousins set up a family genealogy group on Facebook and included me. My news feed was flooded with sepia-toned photos of people who look like they’re auditioning for the road company of Fiddler on the Roof. The novelty wore thin after weeks of Marc yanking my iPad away from me for yet another one of his “I promise I’ll be quick” 15-minute peeks. “Get your own account!” I said, exasperated. I tried shaming him: “Even your 94-year-old mother uses Facebook.”
Watch Out, World: He’s Taking Over the Internet
And that’s what finally did it; he asked me to help him set up his page. Although he’s so adamant about not using a photo of himself for his profile shot that I wonder again about that CIA involvement. Instead, he picked a picture from 1911 of Grandpa Harry, who looks like the love child of Franz Kafka and Vito Corleone.
“Welcome to the 21st century,” I said, heedless of the dictum be careful what you wish for. Channeling his inner research geek, Marc pored through Ellis Island ship manifests, census records, and ShtetlFinder.com, sharing his findings with his Facebook family. He dove into the deep end of the genealogy pool. We even learned from 23andMe that Marc and I are third cousins (Hashtag: #OurForbiddenLove).
“I don’t know who you are anymore,” I lamented.
“It’s still me,” he said. “Your third cousin. And Facebook is a giant time suck. I’ve had enough.”
He patted my hand lovingly. Then he asked, “So tell me again who Coachella is?”
I sighed with gratitude. “You’re still the gift that keeps on giving,” I said happily, secure in the knowledge I’m married to the only guy in the universe who thinks the phrase “Venmo me” is a sexual solicitation.
Liane Kupferberg Carter is a nationally known writer, journalist and advocate for the autism community. Her memoir, Ketchup Is My Favorite Vegetable: A Family Grows Up With Autism, is a winner of the 2017 American Society of Journalists and Authors Outstanding Book Award. Her articles and essays have been published in the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Next Avenue, Brain Child Magazine and Full Grown People.