THE BLOG
03/31/2011 02:25 pm ET | Updated May 31, 2011

Grandma Needs Social-Networking Advice

I'm just sure that Tim Wendel, the author of books including the recent High Heat, did not mean to mock my mother the other day at Facebook. Tim's a nice guy, not the type to diss someone's eighty-year-old mother, really he is. But my mother didn't know that.

I had not caught much NCAA tournament basketball this year, even though it was once my job to watch such games for a living, and got a chance to check out most of the VCU win over No.1-seed Kansas last weekend, a sensational game, and responded with a short and sweet Facebook update: "VCU!"

My mother, a sports nut but apparently not when it comes to college hoops, posted a question: "So what does that mean??"

Just afterward, Tim, a Facebook friend of mine, wrote "Unbelievable".

So far, so good, right? Except that my mother, succumbing to the siren song of believing Facebook really is all about each of US, right, thought Tim Wendel was directly targeting HER!

She then emailed me -- via her iPhone -- under the ominous title "Facebook," "Think I won't write any more on Facebook. Think everyone thinks I am a stupid old grandma. I have gotten several responses that have made me feel this way. Love. Mom."

Needless to say, it took me awhile to work out what this was all about -- and to assure my mother no one thought she was a stupid anything. Soon she was back to posting comments at cute pictures of her great-grandchildren (naked, except for a chipmunk head) or her daughter's pictures of an ancestor's tomb in Baja California.

But it raises a question: What do we tell our parents and grandparents about how to navigate the world of Facebook and other social media? How do we convey that it's all meant to be taken half-seriously, or would it be a quarter-seriously? What tips do we give them?

Meanwhile, my friend Joe and I were in a meeting in Manhattan relating to a book project we are working on. He kept hearing from people about how they had found old friends and acquaintances from twenty-odd years ago via Facebook and Joe, 76, surprised us all by announcing: "That's it! I'm joining!"

Along about 4 a.m. that very night, Joe got out of bed and signed up for Facebook and, as he tells it, hit a button sending out Facebook friend invitations to every single one of the more than 4,000 people in his email address book. He has been on some kind of probation from Facebook ever since, he says. He laughs when he tells the story -- but was also genuinely alarmed.

So what are your suggestions for fogies new to Facebook or other social networking sites? Sorry, kids, but such sites are no longer the sole province of college students. And people in my mother's and Joe's age group are growing rapidly in their Facebook representation. Let's help them out rather than scare them.

Send in your ideas for what they should do or not do -- or if you're sixty or seventy or eighty yourself, tell me about how you use -- or don't use -- Facebook or other social-networking sites. I am working on a book on the topic and want to hear from all of you.