It’s Not Your Kids’ Facebook

If you’re a midlife single who’s baffled by social networking sites, we’ve got a few tips on how Facebook can actually improve your odds of finding someone.

By Theo Pauline Nestor

’m, well, super-middle-aged. And many of my similarly advanced friends are joining Facebook, but some of my old friends — almost prudishly, I’d like to say — are not. “I’ve heard it might not be a good idea,” says my friend Nancy G., a 48-year-old
Reconnecting with people from the past is one of the coolest aspects of social networking.
from Nanaimo, Canada, who’s been reluctant to make use of her newly-minted Facebook page. “Like, it could be dangerous.” The ironic thing here is that Nancy is an electrician. As if standing on 10 foot ladders and braiding live wires isn’t dangerous, Nancy?

Yes, there are some scary Facebook stories out there; if you are imprudent, your online disclosures could eventually come back to haunt you. But, we — the mid-lifers, I mean — are nothing if not prudent. So join the party and find out why social networking is not only fun, it can also be a great way to improve your social life. There’s a reason why it’s called social networking.

Why Facebook is actually perfect for boomers
Unlike today’s youth, most of us boomers don’t spend our free time at wild parties. That means the chance that we’re going to stumble home at 2 a.m., boot up, log on and drunkenly post our status update as “Sapphire Martinis Naked in Joe’s Hot Tub!” is super slim, as is the chance that Joe is going to tag us in a photo emerging in the buff from said hot tub. For the most part, we are in bed by 10:30 p.m. after a rousing session of flossing, exfoliating and moisturizing. Being prim and responsible has its perks — especially when it comes to social networking.

Boomers actually have old friends and acquaintances, and reconnecting with people from the past is one of the coolest aspects of social networking. By the time you’ve reached the (nearly) golden years, you’ve likely moved a few times, graduated from a school or two and had numerous jobs (if not entire careers). All these circles of people tend to fade away after a year or two of moving onto a new aspect of our lives as we became busy with kids, relationships and paying the mortgage. Frankly, it’s far too much work to keep up with all the people we once crossed paths with regularly, even if we narrowed it down to those to whom we truly connected. That’s the beauty of social networking. Type the person’s name into the search box and you may be just minutes away from exchanging a quick message with your college roommate or — and this is where it can get quite good — the boy you had a crush on in the 11th grade.

How Facebook just might improve your dating life
How do you meet people to date when you work all day with exactly one other single person (with whom you have zero in common), come home, make dinner, clean up, go to bed and repeat? Yes, you do some fun stuff on the weekends, but — let’s face it — the fun stuff is usually with all your same old friends who, if they knew someone to fix you up with, would’ve done so years ago when you first started whining
There’s a reason why it’s called social networking.
about wanting to meet someone. And yes, you did sign up for that Italian class which is made up of entirely of people who for one reason or another are ineligible or completely wrong for you. And no, you’re not going to bars because of your loyalty to the aforementioned routine of flossing, exfoliating and moisturizing.

So, connecting with people online is really what we’re down to here — whether that be through an online dating site, like, or social networking sites, like Facebook or MySpace. But while is a fantastic way to meet people who have the stated intention of seeking a romantic relationship, Facebook may well widen your social circle in ways that could indirectly lead to you meeting someone special. There are a number of ways this happens online: You’re exchanging comments with an old friend on Facebook and that gives him the idea to invite you to an event or party; you notice that your casual friend has posted that she’s going to the same ski resort as you next weekend and you send her a suggestion that you get together for a drink there; you see a posting for a fundraiser, literary reading, concert, or festival and decide to attend. It’s not necessarily that you are connecting directly with eligible hotties (but it is possible). But you’re changing the orbit that you normally spin in, and that increases the chance that something cool might happen exponentially. Einstein worked on this formula, actually. OK, no, he didn’t.

Keeping out of “danger”
Back to my friend, Nancy. Facebook is pretty much as safe as you make it. Verse yourself in the basics of how Facebook works. First and foremost, become familiar with your privacy settings and make sure you’ve customized them to your preferences. If you only want friends to see the photos you’re posting, make sure your privacy setting is set accordingly. And remember that anything you post on a social networking site, whether it’s a photo or a status update, can potentially be viewed by people outside your network of accepted “friends.” When in doubt, ask yourself, Would I want my boss, my mother, my neighbor to see this? If the answer’s “yes,” go for it. And have some fun!

Theo Pauline Nestor is the author of How to Sleep Alone in King-Size Bed: A Memoir of Starting Over and a regular contributor to Happen magazine.
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