This post was written by Zoe Mendelson, 20, who is studying urban planning at Barnard College and wishes she spent less time on Facebook. Mendelson is an author of "RED the Book," a collection of essays written by 58 American teenage girls, available in paperback.
My mom recently posted this on Facebook: "feeling a big warm wave of love for my man!" It was only the last time I almost defriended her.
But that would have been silly. I didn't, because I refuse to join the rest of my generation, who -- rather than risk any such embarrassments, or illicit after-hours photos in the other direction -- have an absolute no-parent policy when it comes to their Facebook friends. It's just easier that way. Ask them about it (in an e-mail, if you must).
Most of us age 18 to 25 have been settled into social networks long enough to know who our friends are. They're generally a loose collection of entire high school and college classes, random kids from parties, acquaintances of cousins, never-mets who also like R. Kelly, etc. We're accustomed to friending people we don't really know. We enter into a mutual agreement with permission to stalk and judge of sorts, to look through hundreds of someone else's photos without posting more than a "like" in exchange for the personal tour.
Our parents, however, are still signing up at a crazy rate -- the over-40 presence has more than doubled in social networks in the past year -- and taking this Facebook thing far more seriously than we do. Sweetly or naively or overbearingly, depending on who you ask, they want to be our friends.
Can you be Facebook friends with your parents? I say it's not only possible, but that choosing not to is kind of ignorant and childish. It's a cover-my-eyes-and-you-can't-see-me gesture implying that we still live in a world where our Internet lives remain separate from our real lives.
And -- as all of us who hear constantly that we will never get admitted to college or land a job due to that one yellow plastic beer cup in that one photo must know better than anyone by now -- Facebook is a public venue. There shouldn't be anything on there you wouldn't want your parents (or kids) to see anyway.
But before I say so, go friend your parents already, a qualifier: It takes patience on both parts to get through the generation gap. The buzz about kids posting too much information on Facebook never stops, which is funny, because it's the older generation who seem prone to oversharing. They need to heed their own words a bit. Consider our parents young; they're finding their way in the online world, trying to figure out who they are. They're forging their identities, and they're bound to make some mistakes along the way.
The other day my dad got all upset and called me, on the phone, demanding an answer as to why my nine-year-old half brother was missing from my list of sibling links. He thought it said something disturbing about our relationship and told me that his friends had noticed and suspected the same. I had to explain that the omission is due to the fact that my brother is nine and doesn't have a Facebook profile. "Oh, so he needs to be on Facebook to be your brother?"
My parent-friendly policy has also subjected me to an update on someone's daughter's menstrual cycle ("mother nature visited Katie today") and a friend of my mom's congratulating her and someone else for graduating from nursing school as follows: "In my lifetime I could not imagine the luck of one angel and now I am happy to know two such angels!" It goes on to include the phrase "hearts of glistening gold."
Still, my generation needs to stop letting these differences mortify us.
Seeing things through fresh, aging eyes might even have something to teach us. We approach social networks as voyeuristic stalking devices; they approach social networks as a means to network socially, communicating and feeding relationships with real-life friends. Our parents' generation uses features like notes and groups and discussions. They share opinions about politics and religion and show genuine support for each other; we share "lol cool" and "miss you boo."
My mom gets five times as many comments as I do on any given post. My dad gets plenty more too, and he has one-ninth the Facebook friends as me. I'm not salty about it so much as I think It can't hurt to say things we mean and to remember that a real person reads what we type in those little white boxes.
Try it IRL. Call a parent or go see "The Social Network" together. Talk about it. That's what friends do.