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Wednesday, September 9, 2009

My Mom Wants to be Facebook Friends

Previous family generational issues include length and color of hair or number and locations of piercings. Even family generational issues have gone digital as I hit one with my mother. She asked to be my Facebook friend.

National Public Radio had a whole show on this topic so I knew that I wasn’t alone. The only clear path was to not her request linger. I couldn’t treat her request like the one from a coworker, high school friend that I hadn’t thought about in decades or someone that I only knew on-line. The more it lingered, the more it would cause thoughts to fester about why I hadn't made a decision. My main concern was that my mom’s understanding of boundaries paralleled my knowledge of string differential equations. We both knew that they existed but couldn’t recognize them if we saw them or knew how to navigate them.

I went back to the source and posted on my Facebook status, “My mom wants to be my Facebook friend. What should I do?”

I got some responses that were variations of, “Run!”, “Block her!”, “Give up Facebook it’s not worth it.” Some were more philosophical, suggesting that I was screwed either way and should start considering a drug habit or an endurance training regime to compensate. Some older folks that I know professionally chimed in that they were Facebook friends with their kids and there was never a problem. Personally, I would be more interested in their kids’ opinion about the topic.

My uncle (mom’s brother) told me that he threatened to disown his kids when they wouldn’t be Facebook friends with him. His kids are just out of college so it’s a little different but the main point was that yes, I’m Facebook friends with 2 uncles, 2 aunts, 5 cousins, 2 second cousins by marriage, and probably at least a few other relatives that I missed. Given that I’m connected with 25% of my family, friending my mom shouldn’t have been a big deal. But it still was a big deal. For me (and probably others) my mom is either the first to know something or the absolute last person to know something. Communication channels are monitored for everyone’s benefit. If she was my Facebook friend, would our Sunday night conversations include my whimsical comments about my colon or a slipped detail about the weekend?

I talked about it with my wife and decided that I would friend my mom. A quarter of my family was connected to me already. I’m old enough that my mom has already raised me; any news about new habits that I have developed are my own. I could always talk with her and remove her if she behaved badly.

The next day, before I had friended her, my mom called me. Turns out that my uncle had read all 12 comments to her. I made a mental note to block my uncle on Facebook. Surprisingly my mom thought that it was hilarious that I posted the question on Facebook and hearing the dialogue had cracked her up. Being a Facebook friend wasn’t really that important to her so hearing the strong dissenting opinions expressed about a topic that she had little emotional investment was really funny. Kind of like foreigners probably view our health care reform debate. She told me that it was my choice to be Facebook friends with her, she was fine either way. It really wasn’t a big deal to anyone but me, which is probably how it should be.

Now some readers are probably wondering that given all the thought about Facebook friending my mom, why the heck am I blogging about it? Facebook is more parent porn with mundane updates about someone’s day or their observations. My mom wouldn’t be able to get through one paragraph of my dissection of the MBA admissions process of Obama’s public plan option.

However, I do need to keep a closer eye on my uncle.

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