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Politically Incorrect

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Politically Incorrect

Filling an empty nest

It took less than a day for my house to officially become an “empty nest.” David and I followed Amy down to Lewiston, both cars packed to the gills, where 106-degree temperatures ensured we wouldn’t drag out the good-byes to an unbearable level as we left her there for college.

In the days since I have been consumed with deadline for this issue of the River Journal, plus trying to catch up on some of the many hours of sleep I missed during the two-week Festival at Sandpoint. Still, I have noticed the lack of Amy’s sweet presence, and friends far and wide have offered me advice on how to deal with this new phase of my life.

“I always sent the boys care packages after they left home,” said sister Sheryl. “Made them feel good and miss momma a little.”

Care packages. Hmmmm. What could I put into a care package for Amy that would remind her of home? Let’s see. I could do burnt pizza. A pillowcase with cat hair all over it so she could pretend Nosy had snuck into her bed again. A spider trained to leap from the ceiling and dangle right in front of your face. A few earwigs—my goodness, there have been a lot of those this year. A dead cordless telephone because no one remembers to hang it up and let it recharge. A big piece of wood that needs to be split. A farm fresh egg from Huckleberry Tent and Breakfast and a pound of hamburger from one of Dex Vogel’s cows, except she can’t cook in the dorm. No, the care package thing doesn’t sound like it would work too well for me.

“Just enjoy it!” said Tony and Russell and Dana and Kelly. That’s easier said than done, because they just don’t know how enjoyable it is when my kids are home. But still, it’s good advice given I don’t have any choice in the matter.

Of course, I would enjoy it a lot more if I had regular contact with my children. Misty is good—we talk just about every day. Dustin is not good, and even worse now that he’s off working in North Dakota for a while (though he’ll be back before this comes out). And Amy... well, it’s a busy time when you first go off to school and she doesn’t check her email very often.

That might sound funny—after all, aren’t young adults the biggest users of email? If you think that, then you’re probably as old as I am, because kids don’t use email much anymore—they use Facebook.

Which is why I decided to get a Facebook account, so that I could stay in better contact with my beloved children.

Wow! Why aren’t more people doing this?!

For those of you who don’t really have a clue what Facebook is (all right, you know it’s about social networking, but you don’t really have a clue what that is, either), let me explain. Facebook is a social networking site. (Ha ha ha ha ha... I couldn’t resist that.) Okay, Facebook is like a combination of email, telephone, home movies and free entertainment.

Still don’t get it? Facebook is email because on your “wall” (the homepage of your account) you can post messages that go out to anyone you’ve accepted (or who’s accepted you) as a friend. You no longer have to write a group email (laboriously going through your email address list to see who to include) to let those who care about you know that the cat just brought in a three-pound mouse and left it at your feet, or that your car was repossessed, or that you won ten bucks on a lottery ticket. Just add a post to your wall, and they all know about it. A message is not only added to their own wall about it, but they get an email that tells them the same thing.

Facebook is a telephone because it lets you know when your friends are online, so you can “live chat” with them. Just last night I got to live chat with both Amy and Dustin; I wouldn’t have called either of them on the phone that late at night, nor would they have called me. It was kind of like winning the lottery, albeit without the money. Unfortunately there’s no three-way calling here, so I had two separate chats going, but I type fast so that was okay.

Facebook is like home movies because you learn a lot of stuff you didn’t want to know, but that’s okay too. Because that’s an important part of friendship—you share what people think is important to share about themselves, not just the parts that you want to hear.

Finally, it’s entertainment ‘cause Facebook apparently has a heck of a lot of games that a heck of a lot of people play. I know this because all my friends are super competitive. That means they’ve set their games so that it sends posts to let you know how they’ve done (which, they hope, is better than how you’ve done).

Now that you know the basics, here’s what I’ve learned in the 32 hours that I’ve had a Facebook account.

1. Your kids are not always online. Yeah, I know, that runs counter to what we thought when they were home, but they really aren’t on there 24 hours a day. Yesterday I spent over 15 hours working at the computer on this magazine (man, we have some great stories in this issue!) and I kept my Facebook open, so I know this for a fact. Still, they will be online eventually at some point during most every day, which means you can stay in frequent contact.

2. There is no such thing as privacy online. We all already knew that, kinda sorta, but given what people post, we don’t really know that at all. Rule number one for a Facebook account should be “don’t post anything online that you would be embarrassed to see in the next day’s newspaper.” Given that so many people don’t follow that rule, postings are not just information, but are also part of that free entertainment I mentioned.

Seriously, though, this is an important thing to learn. Employers and schools check your Facebook account to learn things about you, and the cops check it too. (This is how that one student got busted for a party in Spokane—the cops read about it on her Facebook page. Or maybe it was her MySpace page, which is kind of the same, but more people do Facebook.)

You might set your account to private, but the friends of your friends can see your information, which means your postings—like, say, herpes—are viral. You’re sharing with people you have no clue you’re sharing with.

3. You will question your definition of friends. Now 32 hours into Facebook, I’m at 52 friends and counting. Which begs the question... if you’re my friend and you’re not on Facebook, does that mean you’re not my friend anymore? Or how ‘bout this? If you’re my friend on Facebook, will you come to my funeral? Will you cry?

About five hours into my Facebook account, I realized many other ways it could be used, which means the River Journal is now a ‘group’ on Facebook. As a Facebook member, you can become a fan of the River Journal. (I’m not quite sure how you do this, but I have a Facebook thing on the RJ’s homepage and you can click on that to become a fan.) Why be a fan? Because if you are, Facebook will let you know when new stories are posted online, when the print issue hits the streets, and other information as I figure out what that other information should be.

So why not try it? And once you’re there, invite me to be your friend. It will help me to fill my empty nest.

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Landon Otis

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Amy, college, empty nest, Facebook

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