Cambrian: Slice of Life

I’m no technological dunce, but somehow Facebook keeps me feeling sufficiently ‘dumb’

Kathe Tanner
Kathe Tanner

I’m trying to convince myself that I’m really not as dumb as I feel.

I may not be a millennial, but that doesn’t mean I’m tech stupid.

There’s a popular perception that senior citizens aren’t cyber savvy. I just received a rather insulting sales pitch in the mail aimed at reinforcing that misconception.

“Don’t Be Afraid of New Technology!” it said on the envelope in a large, screamingly red headline. Then, hammering home the affront, it said in smaller type, “Computers, internet and cellphones made easy for seniors.”


I taught myself to use a Kaypro 2 in the mid-1980s, pal. The Internet hadn’t arrived yet, so the research was old-style laborious.

Those were the dark ages of:

  • CP/M and c: commands rather than www and touchscreens;

  • Hard drives with far less memory than your Fitbit has now;

  • Squinting for hours at a computer screen the size of a legal envelope (sounds like cellphones, doesn’t it?); and

  • Clunky dot-matrix, tractor-feed printers that would go on inexplicable rampages, spewing ribbons of perforated paper everywhere.

I went from the Kaypro to PC to MAC to iPad, from a cellphone-in-a-suitcase to a Blackberry to an iPhone, all mostly self taught.

Am I a tech whiz at any of them? No. But I know enough to recognize what I don’t know and then holler at the experts for help.

So — here’s the dumb part — when I told those experts recently that all of a sudden, it seemed nobody was seeing my Facebook posts, why didn’t I take the experts’ advice?

No, I’m not like a cellphone-addicted teen. I don’t keep a running tally of “likes” or sulk if nobody comments.

It’s not about me, you see, and never has been. It’s about you, and my responsibility to keep you informed.

These days, journalism is both paper and digital, using online platforms such as the newspapers’ websites, Facebook and Twitter.

Social media is exceptionally useful for keeping people informed about emergency situations, as I did during the 2016 Chimney Fire that came way too close to Hearst Castle and San Simeon Creek Road.

I gathered the latest information around the clock and shared it online with the people who needed it most … because they were, potentially and literally, in the line of fire.

Since then, I’ve assumed I’d be able to do that again during another emergency … earthquake, severe winter storm, flood, closure of a major road or a fire that started here or was heading this way from elsewhere.

But then, starting about a month ago, no matter what the topic of my Facebook posting was — breaking news, photo, meme, casual question or funny story — there was no reaction at all. Zip. Zilch. Nada.

It was as if I was talking only to myself.

Did I ask Facebook User Operations how to fix whatever had gone wrong? Have you ever tried calling Facebook, or asking for help online? It would be easier to pick up the phone and have a direct conversation with the Pope.

I asked some pro techies for help (more about that later).

Then I consulted local expert Jade Bodine of Cambria, an obvious choice because Jade manages some business Facebook pages.

It took her less than a minute to find the problem!

The clue in each post was a tiny padlock snuggled up to the date under my name. The mini-lock was a not-so-obvious alert that the Facebook privacy settings I’d set so long ago at “public” had reset themselves to “only me.”

I really WAS the only one seeing what I posted!

A couple of clicks later, my privacy settings were back to normal. My test posting got 144 comments in less than 12 hours.

Facebook, it would have been helpful if you’d explained the padlock’s meaning somewhere obvious. Because I still have no idea how the setting changed itself without any input from me.

So why am I feeling so dumb?

One aforementioned techie suggested in passing that I should check my privacy settings.

I didn’t do it.

Why? Simple. I KNEW I hadn’t ever changed those settings, so that couldn’t be the problem, right?

Stubborn twit.

I wonder … amid all the recent hoopla about Facebook security in general, did Facebook itself change my security setting to keep me safer somehow?

I’ll probably never know. But I still feel really dumb.

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