You're Boring Your Grandmother

I’ve known Jewish grandmothers whose outgoing voicemail messages go something like this: “You never bother to call, so why should I expect you to leave a message?”

The other night, I was sitting next to one such sharp-witted, Jewish grandmother in her mid-80s. When I mentioned that I write about the intersection of technology and society (I never miss an opportunity for a few new pageviews), she immediately interrupted me and said:

“I hate Facebook. All of my kids and grandkids telling me these mindless things they’re doing. Why would I care what they’re doing every minute? But I keep using it because I don’t want to miss anything important.”

Facebook can be so irritating that it makes a Jewish grandmother feel like she’s hearing from her kids and grandkids too much. That is the most amazing statement uttered by a Jew since my Uncle Mordecai sat down at Carnegie Deli and said to the waiter, “Just give me a side salad.”

But there’s also the operant conditioning angle. Even someone who has likely spent a lifetime ignoring such newfangled meshugas with a throat-clearing wave of the hand can’t quite pull herself away from the promise of the occasional gem that bobs to the surface in a sea of garbage.

The social, realtime web has exploded. Facebook has more than 400 million registered kibitzers who share 60 million status updates a day, and Twitter just surpassed 50 million tweets per day. Those numbers are awe-inspiring for anyone who works, lives and breathes the web. But maybe we’re a little better off if we drop things to, say, 20 million daily tweets and add a layer of editing to our Facebook status updates.

There’s an old Yiddish saying: Words should be weighed, not counted.

That roughly translates as: Oy Vey, enough with the Farmville.

You’re the one who got your Grandmother to sign up for Facebook. At least give Bubbie a nice family photo or a link to a decent story in Haaretz every now and then.

Here’s one more Yiddish saying to keep in mind each time you’re about to update your status:

All is not butter that comes from a cow.

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