There seems to be a disturbing trend developing within the Baby Boomer generation on the Internet: parents on Facebook (POF). Right now I wouldn’t go so far as to call it an epidemic, but judging by the way local parents and their friends have been talking, Facebook could become the new Classmates.com. Be concerned. In the past few months, poffing has downright burgeoned. Sure, right now your mom’s friend is just a Person You Might Know… but eventually, he or she will be your friend too.
Has your parent recently taken to inquiring about life “on the Interwebs”? Did you make the mistake of showing him/her David Blaine Street Magic (because it was, seriously, so funny) and now your parent insists he/she “is hip” and “knows what’s up”? Then you are probably about to be poffed, my friend. Or perhaps you already have been; perhaps the day already came when you checked your email and saw you had a mysterious Facebook request. Maybe, you thought, it was from he attractive girl/boy in psychology/theater/chem lab! Maybe this befriending would even spawn –– dare you think it? –– a poke war! Your index finger hovered over the mouse, trembling with fearful anticipation. Your Valentine’s wishes were about to come true. And then the Facebook email said that you mom had added you as a friend. Awkward. But how could you not accept your mom’s friendship? She raised you right! What an unfortunate day that must have been.
My mother doesn’t have a Facebook account, but keeps talking about getting one. “Two people this week told me I should get a Facebook, isn’t that funny!” I asked her who else her age had them. “Everyone does!” she cried, by which she meant three of her friends and one guy from work. (If this argument sounds a bit like But all the cool parents are doing it, that’s essentially because it was.) “They’re on their kids’ Facebooks all the time!” Mom went on. “Everyone says I should get one. You know what I said to them? They wouldn’t believe me. You know what I said? I said, ‘If I got an account, Heather wouldn’t be my friend’!”
“I wouldn’t say no to being your friend, Mom, I can’t say no to that,” I said, “but I wouldn’t exactly be happy about it.” This was, of course, the wrong thing to say. Mom launched into a lament about how unnecessarily private I was and how she didn’t think I had anything to hide and therefore, why did I feel the need to keep everything so private (ironic, as I’m retelling this on the Internet) and why couldn’t she have one too, to get in touch with high school classmates and such. My argument is this: though I do not have anything to hide, no, I still deserve a forum where I am free of Big Mother. When did having something of your own become a signifier for sketchy dealings? And when I couldn’t phrase this properly, due to the interview-like tone of conversation, I switched to a new tactic. “You would have to have your photo attached to your name,” I told her. My mother is someone who, if given one individual case on the evening news, will fear something for the rest of her life (cities, driving on highways, online dating, walking in town by oneself, etc.) and she said, querulously, that she could just put up a picture of a sunset or something, not her face. “You have to put up your face,” I replied, as ominously as I could. “Yeah, people can’t see your profile unless you’re friends or in the same network, but your name and face will pop up in searches. You’ll still have an identity on the Internet.” I didn’t have to go on; she knew what that meant. Stalking. And possibly Rohypnol.
Still, perhaps I overestimated my mother’s tendency to irrationalize. This morning, an offhand question on her turtleneck/sweatshirt combo caused her to throw open her closet again and search for a new sweatshirt, insisting she felt self-conscious. “And you won’t even accept my friend request!” she added.
“You don’t have a Facebook!” I cried.
We both started laughing, but I feel like it will not be forgotten for long. Be on your guard, guys. This Could Happen To You. (And if it does, please phrase things better than I did.)