Are We Really Friends, Anywhere in Social Media?

Lisa writes: When I joined Facebook I hoped that it would help me achieve what no generation of parents before me had done and that was to discover exactly what my kids were up to.  In this I have failed entirely. For while my children had no trouble accepting eighteen years of food, clothing and unconditional love, nooo, nooo that wasn’t a problem. And it turns out they had no trouble accepting four years of fully paid college tuition. A friend request, or a follow on the social media of their choice, that was simply too much to accept.

Social Media icons, Facebook, twitter, pinterest, wordpress, social media logos

I was reluctant to join Facebook.  I spent so many years trying to keep my kids away from it, and then trying to monitor their time on it, that it seemed just a touch hypocritical to join the fray.  But join I did, and now I find that, because I am not eighteen years old, there are many things I don’t understand.

How can I know more about people I barely know online, people I may never have met in person, than I do about people I see all the time?  If I know you on Facebook, I know how your vacation went, what your kids look like, where you have been for the past month and every single thing you LIKE.   If I know you in real life, I may not know any of those things; we may be so busy we haven’t caught up in weeks. There are days that I feel I know my online friends better than my real ones.

On Twitter you told me to look at your Pinterest and on Pinterest you sent me to Facebook which is where you told me to check out your blog. Is this some Escher-like endless staircase or is it leading me somewhere within the world of social media?

How can I have fifty-nine, and I mean really fifty-nine, friends in common with someone and have no idea who they are?  Not some vague notion, not met them once at a party, but no idea.  Are all of our mutual friends so rude, or embarrassed of me, that no one introduced us even once?

Why do I have hundreds of friends but fewer than a dozen of them account for almost everything that passes through my newsfeed?  And even though I know these eleven have big jobs, doctor, teacher, lawyer…I swear, truly I swear, they must do nothing else than live on social media all day long.

Who are these one trick ponies?  We are friends, even Facebook friends, because sometime, someplace we found each other interesting.  Now that we communicate on FB you post about one and only one subject, be it animal rights, your love of video games, or your babies, and nothing else. And since I am not interested in animal rights, video games or your babies (well, actually, I am interested in the babies) I am no longer interested in you. I think we were doing better in the real world.

Here is a list of what interests me and possibly everyone else we know.  Pictures of your kids, books you have published, marathons you have run, airplanes you have jumped out of and anything you have read and found interesting. Show me YouTube videos that are hysterically funny.  I might be the only person on the planet who has not seen them.  Post funny signs and funny sayings, because if we are friends in real life it is probably because we have the same sense of humor.  I am not interested in your dinner, your body parts and what you are having done to them—any of them, whether your child’s team is winning this particular game (happy to congratulate them on the tournament, just not sure I need the blow-by-blow of each game) and worst of all, I can stand the bragging (you probably have every right to be proud, and I am probably just jealous) but please don’t try to sell me something, or direct me to someone who will try to sell me something.

Has Facebook, or any realm of social media, been everything I had hoped it might be? Well not really. While I have enjoyed reconnecting with some of my high school friends and I do enjoy seeing kids and vacations and deeply compromising photos, it has not helped me achieve the one goal I had when I joined, namely spying on my teenagers.

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Comments

  1. I think Facebook is great fun, though some of my friends can be a bit tedious at times. My favorite thing on facebook is pictures – I love to see what old friend’s families look like. I have found that posting old pictures always gets a lot of “likes,” even from people who didn’t know me – or the people in the pictures – way back when.

    • It really is great seeing old photos, particularly of friends you haven’t seen in years. But I am still waiting for a few new photos from those kids of mine!

  2. Teresa Cleveland Wendel says:

    Facebook has different levels of friendship which determines which posts certain friends might be privy to. I think I’m in the lowest level of friendship with my daughter. Or at least I hope her life is more interesting than what she reveals to me on Facebook.

    • We did a little survey a couple of weeks ago and lots of parents were on restricted access—you are in very good company.

  3. Terri Kaminetsky says:

    So, so funny!!!! Me too! My kids think it’s absolutely anathema for me to even look at their pages, yet 1000′s of their bff’s see them every day!!!!! Crazy….
    T

  4. Everyone of their generation—okay. Everyone of our generation–blocked. Thanks for reading.

  5. I laughed through the whole story! I’m a grandmother now so my kids finally don’t mind friending me on Facebook. My youngest son actually encouraged me to sign up myself, “It would be fun for you” he said, and when I didn’t, he did it for me. I found out about it when I started recieving notifications from Facebook in my email box. The picture he used was one of me in my pj’s on Christmas morning! I figured out really fast how to edit my profile!

    • Sounds like he has a great sense of humor, would you mind asking him to speak to my kids!? Thanks so much for reading.

  6. I’ve actually found it very fun checking on my kids. Now that they are all off at college or out, I always check their pages to see pics, and what they may have been up to that day. Of course, we communicate via texts and phone too. But I always get accused of “creeping” and I say, “If you don’t want me to know, then don’t put it on FB. You’re supposed to creep on FB, for crying out loud.”

    And then my kids hate it when I talk to them about comments they make or things they say on FB. For some reason, they find that annoying. Oh well.

  7. But its wonderful that they are letting you in to see what is happening in their lives. You are a lucky mom.

  8. This post was too funny! You hit the hammer on the nail with the Pinterest leading to Twitter, and then to FB etc., Too much to keep track of and too little time.

  9. regina says:

    What is the darn algorithm that causes a few people to appear ALL the time?
    I too got a Facebook profile to spy on my sons. They restricted me but at least I can see some pictures. Now I have re-connected with some old friends.
    I told them that Facebook was in truth just the ad-monsters getting free demographic info—so control your public persona boys. Image management, not communication. They told me that Facebook is pretty much “over.” (Now that the old people are posting annoying, exhibitionistic information?)
    One more thing: my husband briefly had a Facebook profile and retracted it. Facebook would not let him go for months—sending him emails, “sure you want to leave us…?” Pleading. He is sure they still have all his info ready to go back up at any moment.

  10. Mameshiba says:

    Oh, ha ha!

  11. Lisa,

    I know I am late to the game in finding this post, but somehow I came across it while searching for a subject similar to it.

    I was struck by your words, and how true they still ring two years after you wrote them.

    While I enjoy social media and the steep learning curve it takes to master it, I sometimes find it’s a daily exercise in futility. It’s difficult to know whether someone is friends with you because they are truly interested in your thoughts, or whether they see another name as a means to an end, namely, another number in their daily quest for higher analytics.

    I guess I am blessed that my son doesn’t mind my being his friend on Facebook, nor do my 6 nephews. I try to stay clear of commenting on their timelines unless appropriate, and happily keep up with their daily activities.

    Thank you for writing this piece. It reaffirms many of my own thoughts. I apologize for coming across it so late.
    Cathy Chester recently posted..Six Of My Favorite Oscar Moments Through The Years (VIDEO)My Profile

Trackbacks

  1. [...] for teenagers and I wonder if it, and its cousins Pinterest, Twitter, Reddit and Google+, are not turning us all into adolescents. Adults conduct their social interactions differently than teens and young adults but social media [...]

  2. [...] Facebook can be a powerful force for hurting feelings.  I should have told my children to think of others’ feelings when they posted images and news. When they were small we invited every kid in their class to their birthday parties. As they got older things changed, but not getting an invitation is nothing compared to seeing twenty photos of the party you missed splashed across social media.   I wish I had said that no matter if every other kid at the party/concert/game posted photos, if it is going to hurt someone’s feelings, don’t. [...]