Tonight it finally happened. My mom joined Facebook. And friended me.
I’ve been friended by my mother. Now I know how everyone feels.
Once the initial shock faded I approved that friend request and heartily (and somewhat jokingly) welcomed my mother into the world of Facebook.
The idea of children being embarrassed of their parents online is kind of funny. I get it. I think what’s behind all of it is the false sense of privacy that we have online. We have this sense that somehow certain people aren’t seeing what we’re saying online, that this is our own unique space. The problem with that is that it’s just not true. No matter how protected you think you are, whatever you do or say online is public knowledge. You have no expectation of privacy (or you shouldn’t).
And I get that especially those wild teens want to have their own private space where their parents aren’t eavesdropping. But the problem is that nothing is secret. The whole private/public divide is a mirage. It comes down to what your mother always told you: If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all. Because whoever you’re bad mouthing is likely to come across whatever you said. And that might not be a big deal if you’re talking about random strangers, but it gets ugly (and legal) when you talk about employers or coworkers or friends or relatives. If you wouldn’t say something to someone’s face, then don’t say it. Or at least be prepared for the consequences.
Because honestly, if your mom getting on Facebook changes your behavior, then you don’t have much integrity to begin with. If that’s the case you’re either lying to your mom or you’re lying to everyone else. Don’t be a liar.
I think part of what’s so difficult about social media is that it’s a new platform to talk about and react and comment on things that don’t frequently come up in every day conversation. So suddenly political ideas or religious views or lewd jokes are seen by people we never expected or intended. Not only is it easy to misunderstand but there’s little or no context. It’s a recipe for division (just look at the Facebook comments during last year’s election).
These kinds of social media interactions allow us to see parts of people we would never see before. That takes some getting used to. I think it also takes some understanding on all sides. Moms need to understand that when they see their kids joking and responding to friends. And likewise kids need to get that when they see their parents being real people.
Remember that the next time you see someone say something you take offense at. A little honesty and a little understanding would go a long way.