As Bettina breezes out of the café, two hours after we began, I tell her that I don’t know where to start with this.
‘In the middle’ she replies and pays for the coffees.
I’ll cut to the chase. That’s a good metaphor to use in a blog about Ms Terry, she’s the fastest and fittest person I know. When I don’t have problems with my chest (stop it!) we go to the same circuit class and I watch her give the guys a run for their money. (Some people in town think that I’m married to her husband whose surname is Tallis and I like that.)
Bettina is exasperated. She stopped me outside school and asked if I could give her a little coaching session about Facebook as I seem to know what I’m doing. So I, a Facebook-sceptic am giving her, a Facebookphobic a lesson on Facebook, within a blog about Facebook.
Bettina feels, quite strongly and with hilarious exaggerated facial expressions, that she is running down her very interesting path of life, communicating with people in exactly the same way that she did 15 years ago, and over the hedge she can see immense activity in another paddock, the one they call ‘the online world’. She waves over the hedge and no one wave back, why? She even has solid proof that no one is waving because when she joined up five years ago, she put a faux birthday date on her page and no one says ‘Happy (non) birthday’ to her.
Her profile picture shows a little tent perched on a cold hillside. Is she in it? I’m writing this blog a day later and I text her to ask. Her timeline shows lovely pictures of Bettina and friends that her friends have uploaded but she herself hasn’t posted anything since 2008! She says she is a troglodyte, I think she means Luddite.
She hates Facebook, she hates the competitiveness, she hates the glossy brochure of one’s life being laid out in everyone’s houses. She hates the emails. The emails? She shows me her emails. As far as the eye can see there are messages from Facebook Facebook Facebook to tell her every single subtle nuance that has taken place on everyone else’s pages in the whole world of newsfeeds! She feels like Facebook has taken over her life and yet she never looks at it. I tell her that in two clicks that will all stop.
Bettina wants to learn about netiquette. It’s a hard one to teach, you learn it along the way, sometimes the hard way. I tell her that I garnered everything I know about Facebook in a half hour lesson from my 19 year old godson. He told me to avoid the newsfeed button because it’s a complete waste of time. I half took on his advice and limit myself to looking at the top three posts in the morning. Last night my friend’s brother’s house blew away in a tornado and I wouldn’t have wanted to miss out on that bit of news.
Bettina wants me to tell her about the significance of the ‘like’ button and I say “Well you can completely dislike something and ‘like’ it. ‘Like’ means ‘I see what you’re saying’ or ‘I hate that as much as you do’ or ‘I’m sorry to hear that’ and also it means ‘I like that.’ I suppose the word ‘acknowledge’ was too complex for the planet.”
She often punctuates our conversation with the question ‘Why are you doing this blog?’ I keep finding it hard to put in a nutshell, and we get distracted. In the end I say that I want to address why the phones have stopped ringing and what effect that is having on us all. For the first time in our animated conversation she takes on a distant look. We talk about the deaths of our fathers. Her father worked from home and put a new phone line in Bettina’s bedroom when she hit the teens to keep his phone from ringing. Like me, the phone is wrapped up with her dad.
I confess that sometimes the police would ring our doorbell to say that my dad, the doctor, couldn’t be contacted and he’s needed in an emergency. He’d pick up the receiver in the kitchen to hear me on the other phone discussing the comparative merits of John Taylor and Simon Le Bon with Julie. Then he would race out of the house to the accident/heart attack/birth giving me plenty of time to plan distracting conversation topics for dinner time.
We talk about growing up with very active and now departed fathers. Bettina had a brother but always felt she needed to show her Dad how strong, clever, fast she was. I tell her that as the last of three girls I fell into the lad of the family role, racing bikes and short hair. I felt I needed to acknowledge the Alexander that I was until I popped out. I tell her that my Dad never ever said that he wished I’d been Alex afterall, healthy babies were everything to him. His patients, on the other hand, used to say they wished I’d been a boy to my face, they still do!
My grandfather, as the only boy in his family, having had one boy, my dad, must have felt a bit short changed. Even though we were very close, he did turn to me in the nursing home and say ‘Isn’t it a shame your dad didn’t have any children!’
I tell Bettina to have a laugh with Facebook and don’t try to understand it. She says that she wishes people would stop shortening words like ‘See you’ to C U. That reminds me of a text that Pookah Choo 14/365 sent me in the days when we were both learning to use our mobile phones, years ago. We had been to see Chitty Chitty Bang Bang the musical, and she had texted me to say ‘Lovely 2 (I’ll write it in longhand) See You N Truly Scrumptiousnesses.’ That had stopped me in my tracks.
I look at my phone. Bettina still hasn’t texted back about being inside the tent on the rocky hillside.
Four hours later, she lets me know she’s in there.