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Column: Oh great another shipping container in the Indian Ocean

While researching a recent column, I decided to go online and search for the prices of a hotel that my family used to stay at years ago in Jackson, Wyoming.

I knew the prices would be high enough to put me in a foul mood, and I was not wrong. Many people could afford a $ 500-a-night hotel, but I’m certainly not one of them. I’d rather sleep in the car than pay that much money.

A few hours later, I logged onto Facebook, and my feed became inundated with ads for the hotel. I did not like this at all. All it took was one simple online search, and Facebook knew what I had been doing. This was an uncomfortable feeling and really got me thinking about how much information social media platforms have about people.

I decided to go down a rabbit hole and start researching privacy and social media, and I was alarmed when I read more about TikTok and its terms of service. Reading the finer details alarmed me because many people I know use TikTok daily. Whenever our teenage daughter is home, and we ask what she is doing when she barricades herself in her room, there is probably about a 50 percent chance she mumbles, “I’m just relaxing and scrolling through TikTok.”

After an hour or so of reading about social media, I was discouraged and felt that I had never progressed past getting a Facebook account might have been the right decision.

I remember very well when Myspace burst onto the scene, and it was fascinating to connect with people I hadn’t talked to in years. Looking back, it was kind of a silly social networking site that allowed you to put a song that would play as people snooped on your page. You could also pick your “top eight” friends, which at the time seemed like a daunting task not to be taken lightly.

After growing bored with Myspace, I stayed off social media for a while. When Facebook became popular, I held off as long as possible before creating a page in 2010.

At first, it was amazing to reconnect with so many people, and it was also a great way to keep in touch with messaging.

Somewhere along the line, things changed, and I started to get frustrated every time I logged on.

Fast forward nearly 15 years later, and I rarely see posts about how “my friends” and their families are doing; I see sponsored contests or suggested videos. For the past few days, my page has suggested I follow sites that show videos about shipping containers that fall off the massive haulers in the ocean. I am trying to understand why this is happening, and it’s a far cry from what I initially liked about the site when I signed up. I no longer see updates from people about their kid’s graduation or where they are headed for vacation; I’m seeing containers in the Indian Ocean.

As our kids got older, they started utilizing social media, and they all created accounts on Snapchat, Instagram, and TikTok. They would use Facebook but would also tease Melissa and me that it is a platform for “old people.” Hearing them tell me this didn’t frustrate me; it just let me know that I’m okay with drawing a line in the sand and not advancing past Facebook.

When Melissa approached me about creating YouTube and X (formerly Twitter) accounts for the newspaper, I just smiled and said you take care of that; I’m going to stay here stuck with my archaic site and shipping containers. I’m also completely fine with her keeping an eye on our daughter’s TikTok and Snapchat because I’m not even figuring those sites out.

As much as I try to stay away from Facebook for my mental health, it can be beneficial for work, so I probably need to keep a page.

However, I long for the day when I’ve had enough and can collect as many phone numbers as needed and delete my page. I would probably be amazed by how much more I could get done and how much better I feel not being sucked into the drama of people’s thoughts on politics.

I’ve also been keeping a close eye on AI. While I have created funny photos using AI, seeing its progress is scary. I can’t imagine what it will be like in 10 years. Watching Terminator movies as a kid probably did not help my thoughts on AI.

I can’t imagine what it is like for teenagers to have all the different platforms, AI, and the internet to answer any question imaginable. I remember being grounded as a teenager and so bored that I read our entire encyclopedia, the original Wikipedia. Holy cow, have times have changed.

All the technology made me miss the day when my only source of communication was a landline.