Name: Carole Zicherman
Lives in: Longboat Key, Florida
Interests: Dancing, swimming, arts and crafts, church work
Zicherman’s 98 Facebook friends are all real-life friends and family members. She likes the fact that she can keep in touch with friends who live as far away as Europe and frequently uses the social-networking site to look at pictures, although she wishes she could upload her own photographs in a shorter amount of time.
“I’ve been on for a year now, but I guess I’m still technically challenged,” she said.
Zicherman is one of about a dozen people who enrolled in the four-week “Social Networking 101: Facebook and Twitter” class, which began Jan. 6, at the Longboat Key Education Center. She is one of just three students in the class who had a Facebook page already up on the first day of class. (Another couple of students have tried setting up a page since but aren’t sure if they registered successfully.) The remaining members are social-networking newcomers. Some, like Bette Balk, are eager to learn more about Facebook.
“My grandchildren are on it,” she said. “And I’m chairman of the search committee for my high-school reunion. I’ve found people through other websites, and I thought Facebook might be the next step.”
But some aren’t sure that they want to be a part of the trend.
“I’m a very private person,” says Carol Siegler, whose grandchildren use Facebook but has thus far resisted the social-networking trend. “I just think that this whole thing could blow up on us someday.”
Instructor Bonnie Hammer tells the class that when Facebook started in 2004, senior citizens would not have had the option of selecting the year they were born, because, back then, the site was limited to college students. Now, senior citizens are the fastest-growing group on the site. But, she says, it’s OK to have concerns about Facebook.
“It’s very easy to deactivate an account,” she says.
For the Facebook novices, Hammer goes through the registration process, in which users enter their first and last names, e-mail addresses, passwords, genders and dates of birth. They’ll get to Twitter, a microblogging site, during another class. But there are lots of Facebook questions.
“Must you have a page even if I don’t have any intention of joining?” one student asks.
Yes, Hammer says. And having a page with personal information isn’t what should concern students. It’s how they share it — who they friend, what privacy settings they choose — that is most important.
“Someone says they want to be my friend on Facebook, but I don’t know him,” a man says. “Should I say yes?”
No, Hammer says.
“If in real life, you see the person in Publix and you would not say ‘hello’ to that person in real life, do not be their friend on Facebook,” she says.
Class members want to know if you can unfriend people. Yes, Hammer says. It’s a frequent way that she deals with “Facebook spammers” — people who send nonstop Facebook messages and wall posts.
Hammer takes the class through what she calls “the boring stuff” first: privacy settings, which will help students protect their personal information. And she gives them a homework assignment.
“Click on ‘edit profile,’” she says, “and fill in the information.”
She tells students to upload a picture of themselves — if they know how.
“Have fun with it,” she says. “But when you’re done, log out. Otherwise, it’s like leaving a key in an unlocked door.”
A few days after the class, not everyone is a social-networking devotee. Siegler decided to drop the class because she doesn’t feel she has time to devote to social networking. But some students are embracing it.
Over the weekend, Zicherman took her homework assignment a step further and uploaded an album of holiday pictures. She also updated her Facebook status to say she was taking a computer class. She got two responses, one of which was from her son.
It read, “Great, Mom is going to be on Twitter now.”
The Longboat Key Education Center will celebrate its 25th anniversary this season with its “Baby Grand Series,” a series of four piano recitals. The concerts will feature Robbert de Vries from 3 to 4:30 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 30; Judith Alstadter from 3 to 4:30 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 13; Michael Royal from 3 to 4:30 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 20; and Katherine Alexandra from 3 to 4:30 p.m. Friday, March 4. Cost per recital is $50 for members; and $60 for non-members. Call 383-8811.
Contact Robin Hartill at firstname.lastname@example.org
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