A few months ago, an item in my Facebook news feed sent a weird, sick feeling through my system: my kid sister had just become Facebook friends with someone I knew very well: our mother.
My mother loves the computer. She is obsessed with emails, particularly forwards telling me about the dangers of lemons, the truth about credit card scams, and how we can all find hope in the poetry of a dying child. She and I communicate mainly through AOL Instant Messenger, as both of us are somewhat phone phobic and prefer the safety of keyboards and emoticons. So I wasn't terribly surprised when she asked me about setting up a Facebook account.
"It just sounds like a lot of fun," my mother said, "Do you think I should sign up?"
My immediate reaction was OMG NO WAY NEVER, which I was going to convey to my mother in gentler terms, until she followed up with this, "It would be fun to keep up with you and your sister. But I don't want to look like I'm trying to be young or hip."
Sometimes, you get the kick in the face that reminds you that your parents, in fact, are human beings with lives of their own. All my mother wanted was to connect with old friends, keep up with her daughters, and send little dumb Christmas trees to her nieces and nephews. And yet the 15-year-old in me wanted to keep her from doing so, as if social networking is something that only young people can do, and lame old parents should just stay away from the universe and keep on using their antiquated land-line telephones.
Apparently, many people feel the same way: Alexa Davis of ABC News reports that "the Facebook group entitled 'For the love of god — don't let parents join Facebook' has 5,819 high school and college-aged members who want to stop the growing number of parents who are joining Facebook, the massively popular social networking site, from 'spying' on them." Russell Taylor, a college sophomore, admits that he rejected his mother's friend request, saying, "I don't want my mom commenting on my pictures. That would be weird."
Jeanne Sager at Strollerderby, however, thinks that parents and kids don't necessarily need to co-exist in the Facebook universe. In fact, Sager claims that parents might be better off denying their children's friend requests: "There's Facebook for kids. Then there's Facebook for the rest of us. (or Myspace or Twitter . . . or whatever social media you kids are using these days). Those of us who have opted for a "private" page, wherein we allow only those we've "confirmed" to see status updates and goofy pictures, have done so to keep out anyone who would judge what we have to say on there. For smart folks, that includes their bosses. For parents, it can also include their kids."
In other words, in the same way that you don't want your Mom reading about your drunken shenanigans online, your Mother may just want to keep you away from her personal life, as well. "I'm a fully-grown, responsible adult and mother," Sager says, "OK, according to my mortgage coupon book, I am. According to Facebook, where I just wrapped up a discussion with a friend about Pillow Pants, the vagina troll (Clerks ringing a bell for you Kevin Smith fans?), well. . . you be the judge. What my kid doesn't know won't hurt her."
As for my mother and I, we're currently Facebook friends. There are certain parts of my profile that are locked down so she can't see them; not because there's anything truly scandalous there, but because sometimes, as much as you love your parents, you just need to put up a wall to maintain your own sanity. And also, Mom, stop sending me Little Green Patches or whatever the hell they're called. I love you, but you're driving me insane.
Friended By Mom And Dad On Facebook [ABCNews]
Kid Won't Friend You On Facebook? Get A Life [Strollerderby]
Earlier: Grownups Of This World, Just Get Off Facebook Already