Sometimes I just want to post a French-fry roundup on my dad's Facebook wall.
That my dad does not have a wall is not really a problem. I can email, and I do, and he does not have to remain in the dark about the vast array of dipping sauces available to him. He can forward the email to his friends if he feels they, too, might benefit from this information. But my instinct when I find such an article is to share it in a way I might share with my friends, and it makes me a little sad, even if only for a minute, that I can't do so.
I want my parents to join Facebook. I want this despite the fact that I have been told by others that I do not. I want my parents to be my friends.
When the discussion of parents on Facebook arises, it seems that the primary concerns are what they will see and what they will say. I am not worried about either of these issues. My parents may not be my friends on Facebook, but they are, fortunately, my friends in real life. I talk to them almost daily, sometimes more than once, and though I don't tell them everything, they are typically aware of what's going on in my life. Not only do they know about my weekend plans, it is not unheard of for my mom to ask, "Did you get your laundry done?"
Many people view their parents' presence on Facebook as an invasion of privacy, but as the social network becomes increasingly pervasive, it hardly seems like a good hiding place. I have 1,180 friends, including my boss, my friends' parents, my parents' friends and my former co-worker's cat. I don't accept requests indiscriminately, nor do I want complete strangers perusing my profile, but I am certainly connected to people I've never met in person and some people I bet I'll never meet again. I don't mind telling these people that Stefon on "Saturday Night Live" cracks me up or that I learned some valuable lessons from "Friends." And if they want to read my writing, I appreciate that. But there's nothing that I would reveal to this hodgepodge of acquaintances, friends and family that I wouldn't reveal to my parents. In fact, it's kind of strange having a way of communicating with a huge group that doesn't include two of the people I share the most with.
As I've written more and more about my own life, I've been learning to strike a balance between my inherently private nature and my public persona. I make decisions about what to put in an essay, what to tell only a select few and what to keep to myself entirely, and I go through a similar filtering process as I share items online. I don't take a stream-of-consciousness approach to these platforms the way that I might in a conversation with my best friend. My dad already follows me on Twitter, and the absence of anything inappropriate has less to do with his ability to read my tweets than the fact that I think about what I put out there in general. (Admittedly, this system has not been flawless.)
When I joined Facebook in 2004, the social network welcomed only college students at a limited number of schools. It was the domain of young people, and that image stuck with my parents even after the gates were opened. Now even they acknowledge that this is no longer the case. For as long as I've been writing, I've been sending my work to various family members, and my mom has been forwarding it to a group of her friends. Lately, though, they've been writing back to her saying they already saw it on Facebook, as they are already my friends. Similarly, when my dad asks me if I got much response to a given piece, I tell him that several people "liked" it or commented and end up rattling off a list of names that includes some of his friends. When I take pictures at weddings, I create a separate Kodak album for my parents, and though this allows them to see the photos, they aren't able to see how others have responded, an experience I know they would like -- and probably "like."
"Congratulations! Your parents just joined Facebook. Your life is officially over." These words greet visitors of Oh Crap. My Parents Joined Facebook, the site where people can submit the embarrassing statuses of their parents or other relatives. Though the contributions there -- and this "Mom's on Facebook" sketch -- suggest why people might be better off without Mom and Dad as Facebook friends, I can't imagine my parents would fall into this category. I'm simply not worried that my wall will suddenly feature a question from my mom about why I don't have a relationship status or eight articles from my dad about Texas football. The latter might still appear in my inbox, but that's fine.
My parents would love Facebook. They would love seeing the pictures all their friends see on a regular basis, and they would love seeing the interactions my sister and I have with our friends. (Leslie, if you do not share my feelings about this topic, please forgive me for encouraging them.) Aside from the amount of time my parents might waste on the site, I just don't see a downside to their joining. It wouldn't supplant our regular exchanges. It would supplement them.
In past conversations, my parents have conceded that they will probably sign up eventually. I think they should do this sooner rather than later.
Friend me, OK?