Sunday, June 21, 2009

Project Find Harold: Dad and Facebook.

It's Father's Day and both our dads are not here. Mr. Husband's father is travelling with the church choir, spreading their heavenly voices elsewhere while my dad is at home in The Villages, FL on the golf course. Both dads already got their Father's Day gifts. Both dads feel sufficiently loved and know that they're the greatest. Both dads have three loving kids.

Here is my favorite photo of my Dad and I from when I was in grad school. Mom and Dad lived an hour and a half away from me then. Now they live eight and a half hours away. Mom and dad used to visit me every other month were we'd go to Macaroni Grill and drink jug wine and then hit Parisian's afterwards. Dad loved these excursions. We always laughed a lot and dad felt like he was really part of my life. He supported me through grad school by not continuously telling me that I'd never make money with an English degree. I guess he'd gotten it out of his system when I was in undergrad. He is a funny man who likes to laugh and enjoy life. This is why he and mom live in the "bubble" called The Villages. It is a returning to the college years. Mom and Dad have one party after another. They are forever celebrating life. This is why I call mom and dad in the mornings on the way to work. The evenings are booked with their too-many-to-name social events. While I typically call three days a week or more, Wednesdays is my morning with Dad while mom is on the tennis court.

This past week, I told him about Harold's new photos on Facebook that he'd posted from Iraq. Harold is ready to come home for leave. Dad said that he wanted to see the photos. I told him he has to learn to use Facebook. He said he would. I said, "I'll write a document and teach you dad!" We both hung up the phone filled with hope.

My parents are too busy golfing, playing tennis, hitting happy hour at 3:30 in the afternoon, and playing hand-in-foot to forward their computer and Internet skills. This was going to be a challenge. I had already set up a Facebook account for mom months ago. She used it once and then never could figure out how to log in again. Dad was ready to give it the old Klusendorf try! I wrote the document on Thursday night. I kept in mind that my audience was not computer savvy. I kept in mind that my parents are easily discouraged about technology when the golf course is ever calling their names. I understand. We love golfing with dad when visiting The Villages. We understand.

The Facebook Document

I called my dad at 9:43 am on Saturday. Fortunately, he was not out partying at that early hour, he was painting the garage. My parents are always painting something. They had to move to a larger house after their first year in The Villages when they realized a villa did not give them enough rooms to paint and repaint and then paint again. He put down his paint brush and picked up the phone.

Dad was ready for his lesson. I instructed him to look for the document I sent to his email. He read the email and realized he was already behind. I'd instructed him to read the document ahead of our phone call.

The first and biggest challenge for someone who does not use the Internet often is logging in. Logging in can be the worst experience ever. It can bring down walls of large cities. It can cause food to rot. It can lead to the unintentional destruction of a happy home. It can deter an older person easily and cause that person never to try again. No! It is frustrating. Dad had this hurdle as his first step.

I added lots of goofy photos of myself to the document. Mr. Husband and I took the photos in an attempt to potentially alleviate any stress dad may have over trying to learn something so new and foreign. I was on the phone encouraging him and in the document giving him little tips. I was working hard to get dad to Harold.

To log into Facebook, the user uses his email address. Dad kept selecting his email address (a shared mom and dad email address) from an autocomplete selection. Unfortunately, mom had entered the email address wrong. Dad was selecting over and over and over again mom's mis-typed email address. It was very frustrating. Dad didn't get discouraged. He didn't yell at me. He simply kept trying. Good man. After four attempts and him believing that the all-caps message Facebook offered meant he should actually use all-caps in his login credentials, I finally convinced him to type in the login credentials fresh. He did it! He logged in! We were making progress.

Next step: orient Dad with the Facebook homepage. It can seem overwhelming--I know this. I tried to break it down for him. I didn't want him to worry with the unnecessary. Stay on the path to Harold!

Then, I heard Mom behind him. She was there. She wanted to see how he did it. And then I showed them their friend requests. The two of them went on and on about how this person or that person who'd requested their friendship hadn't changed a bit. I could hear mom, "well, he hasn't aged a bit since high school!" I could hear the envy in her voice. Dad is getting distracted!

I tried to reel dad in. Stay on target! We have a goal: Project Harold. Our goal was to get dad to see Harold's photos and to be able to post on Harold's wall. Dad and Mom accepted a few friend requests and then it was back to the lesson.

I created a link from Mom and Dad's Facebook page to Harold's Facebook page. All mom and dad have to do is click on "Harold Facebook" from the left toolbar. Sounds easy. Dad can do it! Dad did do it! He found Harold.

I added instructions in the document to show dad how to page through photos on Facebook. The goal was for mom and dad to get their daily dose of Harold. Harold likes to add photos to Facebook. Mom and dad need to see those photos. I helped. And I continuously reminded them that they could always get back to the Home page via the blue banner toolbar. That's one of the most important things when teaching older people about the Internet--give them a safe way home.

Lastly, I taught dad how to leave a message on Harold's Facebook wall.

Dad let Harold know that he's out there. He's watching. He's connecting and networking. This one time.

I don't think Dad will return to Facebook. I don't think he really sees the purpose. That's ok. He now has this document so that when I mention on Wednesday morning, "Harold put this great photo on Facebook ... ", then dad can go and find it. Maybe. We'll see. That will be the final exam, if it ever happens. But I have great hope. I also know that the golf is calling.


Starling said...

Heather - this is fantastic and freakin' hilarious! I may have to borrow your Facebook doc as an awesome example when I teach tech writing this fall - if it's ok, of course :)

countrypeapie said...

Heather, this is truly fabulous. The pictures, the pink arrows -- I think there is a legion of older Americans who NEED this document!

Kari Jean said...

This is great!! I may have to copy you and do something similar to this for my dad (he wants to do Facebook but is too intimidated)!