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.
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.