Family & Education

Friends with everyone but not on Facebook

Have you made friends with Susan Reuben's dad?


My dad, Brian Posner, has an extraordinary aptitude for making friends in the most unlikely of situations. He recently made one, for example, outside the Apple Store in Brent Cross while waiting for it to open. I don’t mean that they just had a nice chat. They actually ended up exchanging visits. Who else makes friends while out shopping? It’s ridiculous.

Furthermore, although he is culturally very open in his associations, he does have an extraordinary tendency to meet people who are Jewish.

I’ll grant you that in Brent Cross that doesn’t take an awful lot of talent… but he could probably go on holiday to Ittoqqortoormiit and he and Mum would end up playing Bridge with a nice couple from Stanmore who also happen to enjoy visiting the remote reaches of Greenland.

This predilection for talking to strangers resulted in him solving a genealogical riddle that he had been working on unsuccessfully for years.

He had been trying to trace where his paternal grandfather had originated from, and all of the usual channels for Jewish genealogical research had brought up nothing more definite than that it was probably a particular village in Lithuania.

Then, visiting São Jorge Castle in Lisbon, Dad got chatting to another tourist who, it turned out, had grown up on the same street as my grandpa in Dublin and knew him well. He was able to unlock the mystery Dad had been working on for years, supplying what turned out to be incontrovertible proof of the family’s origin. What strikes me about this story is how quickly he must have managed to delve beyond the usual platitudes when talking to this stranger, in order to find out enough about his life story to discover the connection.

Even though Dad is so sociable, however, we were all quite surprised when, a couple of years ago, he announced his intention to open a Facebook account.

My dad likes actual people whom he can meet and talk to in real life. He’s not interested in interacting through a piece of software that only allows us to view each other’s lives through strictly controlled algorithms that decide exactly in what format we can communicate, how many words and pictures we can use, and how many adverts for slippers we have to look at in the process.

He was insistent, though, that he was going to try Facebook. Once his account was set up, my family took bets on how long it would be before he deleted it again. I was the most pessimistic, predicting that he would last no more than three days. I won.

“I can’t stand it,” my dad moaned. “I’ve been inundated with friend requests!” He sent me the following message to explain his decision to quit in more detail:


Dear Susan,

As you will continue to be in contact with Mark Zuckerberg I would be grateful if you would put this message on Facebook. Please advise Mr Zuckerberg that after only three days I am regretfully resigning from his organisation. I hope that this will not impact too adversely on his business and I do wish him every future success, even without my participation.

I also have a message for my family and friends, many of whom have instantly requested to be associated with me on Facebook. My refusal does not reflect any lack of affection for them and I will love them all as in the past.

You may wonder what has motivated this decision. It is not a matter of technology as I have no difficulty in understanding electronics and computers. It is a question of age. I am now eighty-one and two-thirds and this is exactly the point at which one becomes incompatible with this lifestyle.

I do like to have lots of friends, but one at a time in a predictable sequence, and without random comments from their friends and their friends’ friends ad infinitum.

I am very fond of looking at photographs but these need to be arranged in an album after due thought and perused methodically. Similarly, I like videos and films, especially when listed in the Radio Times and watched at the appointed hour. Programmes on the wireless are also very much enjoyed.

So please ask everyone I know to continue to keep in touch on a regular basis. Pigeon post or the electric telegraph is preferred, alternatively by Royal Mail, and as a last resort by email.

Love Dad


So if you want to contact my dad, just follow his instructions. And if you’re not real-life friends with him yet, don’t fret — you probably will be soon.


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