My cellphone rang at 10:10am on Friday morning. I had just set up to work from home, and was surprised to see it was my sister calling. She usually doesn’t phone me during work so I wondered, with a little trepidation, whether something was wrong. . .
“What’s up with Dad on Facebook?” she asked. I breathed a bit of relief that it was nothing serious; I knew about Dad on Facebook b/c I had put Mom up on it a few weeks prior. The theory was that she could view current photos of our kids without us having to go through the hassle of printing, burning, or remembering to email them. Dad joined last week. Not only that, Dad and I had our first ever Skype video call, a first for me, which meant Dad was following his 21st Century digital boy into the communication evolution (“communivolution”) that technology affords us. He had unleashed the power of anytime connection & online social networking – access to hundreds of our childhood playmates and prime opportunities to be the “embarrassing dad,” (something I am looking forward to doing to my own kids in 8 to 10 year as they reach the age of parental mortification).
“Why,” I asked, “what is he doing?” playing the innocent little brother. I knew what she meant. Dad can have an offbeat sense of humor, and here I was giving him a digital stage.
“I don’t know,” she said, “he’s posting all kinds of stuff; clogging my wall, friending my friends, and when you don’t answer his posts he follows up asking like ‘why don’t u like me’. It’s just weird.”
I have debated with many GenXers, GenYers, and Millenials over whether parents on Facebook is a good thing, and conclude that it depends: the older the generation the less the hesitation to have parents on their social networks. Take Wonder Woman for example – she is in her mid-twenties and clearly a senior member of the Millenials, yet cringes at the thought of her mother joining FB despite the great relationship they have in meatworld. I, on the other hand, am 7-years her senior, a card carrying member of the GenY, and don’t really have such an aversion to my parents posting profiles up on FB. Perhaps the closer we come to being embarrassing parents, the less we mind having our own embarrassing parents in our online social networks?
I tried to comfort my sister: “He’s just a little bored,” I said, “and Facebook is really just a novelty for him right now. He’s not used to this type of communication.”
She thought about it and said, “no, your right. I remember my first week on Facebook, I didn’t get ANYTHING done. I was on it all the time. Now, I barely even look at it.”
“If it bothers you so much it may be worth saying something to him,” I said. “Or you could always block him.”
She laughed: “should I defriend Dad on Facebook?”
“No,” I said, laughing with her, “but it may be worth a talk.” With that we moved onto other subjects, but I had recognized a blog post once I saw it. The idea of defriending, blocking, or even preventing our parents from joining online social networks seems cold, but is this really just the setting of healthy virtual boundaries? Perhaps we need a code of social online conduct for parents – a guide for how to not embarrass your adult children on Facebook. But then again, aren’t all rules made just to be broken? Such a code may just give parents more ideas for better tactics. And what would be the fun in parenting if your kids could grow out of parental chagrin or hide from it online?