‘You mean you’re supposed to write on the wall?’
My family had two important milestones this weekend. The first was my little brother’s bar mitzvah. For those of you who have somehow spent at least a semester at Wash. U. without learning about this Jewish rite of passage, that means that my 13-year-old brother is now officially considered an adult…at least according to Judaism. Legally, thankfully, still not so much.
The second milestone occurred Sunday: I accepted my mom’s Facebook friend request.
It’s been sitting idly on my requests page for months now, as I have been reluctant either to accept or reject it. Today I finally caved.
Some of you may be fervently shaking your heads now, appalled that I would ever allow a parent into my online world, but most are probably wondering what the big deal is. The significance is two-fold.
First, my mom is by training both a lawyer and a journalist, which combined have endowed her with a superhuman ability to extract information from even the most reluctant of sources and sketchiest of details. I figured that if I wanted to maintain some modicum of privacy, I should not provide her with unrestricted access to a constant stream of electronic updates about my daily activities.
Which brings me to my second point: I do not really want anyone following each of those updates and activities. That sounds counterintuitive—to post something on to the World Wide Web means nothing if not to place it in the public sphere—but upon further reflection, I think most of you will probably admit to the same paradoxical desire.
Now let me clarify. I have no expectation of privacy when I post something on Facebook, and each individual post is meant to be read. Collectively, however, they paint a more complete and personal portrait of my life, and anyone who followed each and every update would be considered a stalker, albeit of the anonymous, and more innocuous, Facebook variety.
Still, I feel comfortable on Facebook because I feel confident that no one really cares enough to follow every single detail of my online life. Even if I’m wrong, no one would comment on every post or ask questions about people they do not know and remarks they do not understand. No one, that is, except my mother.
Our parents’ generation is not native to social networking and therefore cannot grasp this fundamental principle of online etiquette: Even though something may be posted where the entire world can see it, it is not always socially acceptable to read it.
Facebook users of our age would be horrified to broadcast exactly whose pictures they have viewed or to let slip into offline conversation a tidbit gleaned accidentally from their News Feed. The grown-ups, on the other hand, fail to understand this peculiar yet wholly widespread Millennial phenomenon.
And yet, I accepted the request. I decided that if my little brother can become an adult, my adult parents could learn to use Facebook like their children. After all, my brother has a Facebook page too now (yup, Facebook has in fact spread to middle school), monitored by my mother’s News Feed, and while it is cluttered with countless annoying quizzes, there are no parental comments. More importantly, I also decided that I could grow up enough to accept the occasional intrusions and motherly questions.
So Mom, I will accept your online friendship…on a trial basis, to be made permanent only after a period of good Facebook behavior. If it doesn’t work out, it’s OK—I promise not to unfriend you offline.
Eve is a junior in Arts & Sciences. She can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.