It’s true. And some days, I’d desperately love to give it back.
Like most of the folks my age, I joined Facebook to spy on my kids. Not, as my daughter believed, to spoil all her digital fun, but because I’ve been hanging out online since the early 80s and know it’s not all sweetness and light. I just wanted to keep an eye on things, as best I could–to head trouble off at the pass, and keep her safe.
My son only joined Facebook out of curiosity, and he only stayed to keep his mom’s orchards stocked with fake fruit trees. That grew old fast, for both of us. But it was fun for a while.
Before long, both my kids were past needing close supervision on the Internet; my daughter was busy with college; my son found his own venues on YouTube and Steam. But by then I’d found my best friend from 9th grade, reconnected with my childhood pen pal from Sweden, made new friends, and found new readers for my children’s books.
When my own Dad joined Facebook, I laughed at the irony.
“Oh my God,” I moaned. “It’s every child’s nightmare! My Dad just Friended me on Facebook!” I was laughing as I typed that in an email to him, and the minute I clicked Send, I went to Facebook to confirm his Friend request.
He wrote back, “I promise not to be judgmental!” What does the man think I post there, anyway?
“I know you won’t be judgmental. It wouldn’t do you much good if you were.” I was 46 years old, for Heaven’s sake, and my Dad wasn’t going to learn any deep, dark secrets about me on Facebook. Except–well, there is that post about eating balut. But he’s largely to blame for my adventurous nature when it comes to trying new foods, so I figure he deserves the glassy-eyed glare from Mad Duck, the Angry Balut.
I thought this was hilarious, but apparently it was a social media crisis three or four years ago, for a lot of kids – the hot news stories included, Friended by Mom and Dad on Facebook, and “Mom, I Love You, But Please Don’t Friend Me on Facebook.” We parents struggled with the guilt – truly, we did. But then we figured it was all part of that growing up process, where our kids eventually realize they have no more control over us than we have over them, and maybe we can actually be Facebook Friends, even if it sometimes makes them (and us!) cringe and roll our eyes.
As for those pictures, Ruby, the Internet is forever. It doesn’t matter where they’re posted; if they can be crawled, searched for, seen by others, downloaded, or shared — they’re out there for moms, dads, aunts, creepy perverts, and future employers to see. But I daresay, if you’re fully clothed and not holding the red Solo cup, and nobody dies or gets hurt, it’ll be okay. We were all young and did foolish things, once upon a time. If it doesn’t feel okay – you call Mom and Dad and get a ride home. If you think it’s not going to look good on the Internet ten or twenty years from now, call and get a ride home.
Ruby, you wrote, I’m 13 and None of My Friends Use Facebook – and I thought, isn’t that funny? I’m 50, and darned near everyone I ever knew is on Facebook. Kids I went to 1st grade with are on Facebook. And one of these days, when you’re listening to the music you grew up with and it’s on the “Oldies” station, you’ll find that all your friends are on Instagram or Snapchat (assuming either site’s still around), and your kids – I hope – will be out riding their bikes, doing cannonballs in the neighborhood pool, and inventing the next hot teen trend.
That’s just how it’s meant to be.
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