Geoff Tennant - Promoting access to mathematics for all
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26/6/16: Facebook is fantastic!

I've had a Facebook page for many years, certainly long before I came to Tanzania.  Initially I regarded it very much as enemy territory, so occasionally I would get emails telling me that I had messages waiting for me, I would go in, very much feeling that I needed dark glasses and camouflage clothing, write a message asking whoever it was to contact me by email and then come back out again, relieved that I had survived the encounter unscathed.

When I started keeping this blog there was the option of automatically generating a Facebook post to say that I'd uploaded an entry, and I thought, OK, that's fine, I can do that.  And gradually over the last few months my use has increased, so trying to do tortuous maths puzzles set by a Jamaican friend, which quite often give rise to quite fierce debate, on at least one occasion I was pleased that the geographical distance between us meant that the fight could not become physical.

So, I can't now quite remember what prompted me, just less than 2 weeks ago, to upload a photograph or two, and very quickly got some very nice comments and a number of 'likes'.  So, encouraged, I uploaded a few more pictures.  A former student came to see me when he was in the building to pick up his certificate, so an opportunity to take a picture and upload it.

Of course, if I'm appreciating the comments and likes when friends see my posts, I need to be doing the same for theirs.  The nature of Facebook posts is that they're normally quite short, so it doesn't take long to read, press the 'like' button, and move on.  Or maybe make a brief comment.

So I was about 3 days into thinking how great Facebook is when I woke up last Friday to discover, to my horror and initial disbelief, that my brother Pete had died very suddenly the day before.  As the hours became days and the days now form a complete week, support has come from a number of sources, Facebook absolutely being one of them, with some really lovely comments from around the world, many from people who also knew Pete but also many who didn't.  One which sticks in my mind is from somebody I knew in Leicester with whom I don't keep in regular touch, who sent back to me a bereavement card I'd sent her maybe 10 years before.  Which was a really kind thing to do, thank you.

Of course, everything I wrote in this blog entry, concentrating more on the need to be careful using the Internet, holds about Facebook.  So, in using Facebook, including pressing the 'like' button, be sure that you are happy that what you are putting on the Internet you are happy can be read by absolutely anybody and everybody.  So, to take one of many examples, I am extremely happy that anybody in the world should know that I like the entry celebrating the 6th birthday of the son of friends.  If I do not immediately understand an entry, or have any reservations at all, I don't.

Which leads, with the kind of tortuous connectivity that Radio 4 is so famous for, to the aftermath of the referendum last week.  I made my own position as a supporter of Remain very clear in a number of my own posts and comments on other people's.  I went to bed on Thursday evening confident that a Remain result was coming, and of course was both surprised and very disappointed to find that a majority had voted to leave.  In the flurry of messages I'm being this side of cautious in what I am liking and commenting on.  Yes, I'm disappointed, yes, I'm anxious about the future of our country, but the people have spoken.  I am not going to criticise people who voted the other way, nor to be less than respectful to them.  Being slightly out of touch with things, I'm feeling the need to understand the leave arguments better since they have now prevailed.

So, if in doubt, don't.  But let's not allow the potential pitfalls of Facebook stop us from using what is a truly wonderful resource!

Finally to say, travelling to the UK this coming Friday with Pete's funeral due in Cheltenham on Monday 11th July, more details can be provided on request.  I finish with a picture of Pete taken by his wife Carolyn on a recent day out.

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