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January 2, 2013

A Little Time Waster

Tom McLaughlin

Kuching, Malaysian Borneo – I knew I wouldn’t like Facebook. I had joined the social network to sell my book “Borneo Tom” a few years ago. In the beginning, I accepted “friends” from everywhere. Each morning and evening I “liked” everything without reading the post. It took maybe 45 seconds.


Most of my real friends are not part of the billion member phenomena. Many people my age know how to turn on the computer on, read and write an e-mail and send pictures. They are still scared of the computer because they are afraid if they pressed the wrong button they will lose their contacts and other information.


Although laughable by people a few years younger, the computer skills they acquired took many hours with the help of friends and family members. Now they have a set procedure, memorized or written down they follow religiously. And they are comfortable with that.


I send them an occasional separate missive, usually with pictures. I used to get replies from them; but now, except for one or two, silence. I guess the novelty and crazy stories from their friend who moved to a tropical island, married a native girl and had a child even though he says he had a vasectomy, has worn off.


But that’s okay. Even I have trouble believing it. They may think I am still in Middletown, Maryland (USA) making all this up. However, I am actually living my dreams and imagination.


Getting back to Facebook. I have 500 + friends, a very small number I understand. Very, very few post regularly like I do, but when I write about illness or other maladies, many come out to support me. I know I have a lot of lurkers (people who read my posts but never respond) because suddenly they will show up and write, not to be seen for a year or two. That’s okay.


The greatest thing about Facebook is getting technical information. If I don’t know how to do something on the computer, all I have to do is post a question and I get a patient, knowledgeable response. That is so much easier then wending my way through the maze of Google and the jargon I don’t understand and have no intention of learning.


Speaking of learning, I am “friends” with regular posters who enrich my life with knowledge. One Canadian informs me about the weather problems at the Arctic Circle and is a rabid environmentalist. I really enjoy his world.


I never, ever knew so many people owned cats.


I really don’t have a fondness for the felines. We usually had a least four wandering around the house for the past 20 years. I changed their litter box, fed them, took them to the vet, provided fresh water and brushed them during shedding time. They never sat on my lap. At night, I would arise and visit the bathroom. One or two would see me and hiss, claws extended. One night (I swear this is true) all four did it in unison, like it was planned. But, I do enjoy reading about the antics of people’s pets from horses to hamsters.


I have tried to expand my Malay language. There are many different flavors, like government Malay, Sarawak Malay, Indonesian and the related Iban. A dictionary sitting by my computer, I try to translate out the posts. But, like in English, people write in computer short cuts. Then it becomes incomprehensible. But it’s still fun.


Chinese characters are a different story. I hit the Bing translate button and the results are hilarious. I inform the person and we all have a good laugh. I ask them to write in English, but no luck. That’s okay, too. I should learn Chinese; but, like computer language, that is not going to happen.


Facebook for me, now, is a wonderful world filled with many different people who share their lives, loves and frustrations. I add a word of encouragement, always try to be positive and share a bit of my world with them. It usually only takes about 10 minutes, five in the morning and five in the evening, a nice 10 minutes.


…Life is good . . . . .


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