28
Oct
11

you vs mom + facebook

Reader G. F. writes:

I’m a pretty moderate Facebook user (I think) — I log on once or twice a day, check on what my friends are doing, and post interesting information if I think of anything. My mother, however, is kind of obsessed with Facebook, and stays logged on most of the day via her phone. I don’t mind this per se, because she still leads a relatively normal life, but I can’t stand her Facebook habits. For instance, she’ll accept friend requests from anyone, whether she’s met them or not. She doesn’t even check who they are or if they’ve got friends in common. Also her status updates can verge on the TMI, and she comments on everything. As her daughter (and therefore the more tech savvy person in this relationship), do I have a responsibility to school her on Facebook?

Dear G.F.:

Do you ever wish there were parental controls for things like TV and Facebook, but instead of it being parents controlling it for their young kids, it could be us grown adult children controlling it for our parents? Yeah, me too. Sigh. (Just kidding — my mom and dad would never DREAM of getting on Facebook, so I’ve got nothing to worry about.)

Mom n Daughter Yay

I hope your mom posts this picture on Facebook somewhere. Image: digitalart / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

In any case, the fact is, as I say over and over, the only habits you can change are your own. So no, you do not have a responsibility, or even a right, to tell your mom how she can use Facebook. And I really doubt Zuckerberg is looking into that parental controls app I just dreamed up.

But you can tell her how you feel about it. And you do have a responsibility to warn her if she doesn’t know the danger in what she’s doing.

Now you’re looking at me like I’m crazy. Facebook is harmless… generally. But not always.

The thing about Facebook is that there’s a fine line between annoying Facebook habits and unsafe Facebook habits. I don’t think it’s going out on a limb to assert that the people who do the most annoying things on Facebook are also the people who are clueless as to their safety. People who indiscriminately “friend” anyone or “like” anything are also likely to click on whatever links come their way, causing spamitis for everyone on their friend list and possibly even worse outcomes, like identity theft.

So perhaps your responsibility is to draw those lines for your mom.

I can see how it would be annoying that your mom accepts friend requests from anyone all willy-nilly (although that’s not really any of your business, ya know). But more importantly, it’s her doing so could be very unsafe, especially if she has personal information on her profile (like her address or phone number) that could be used against her. Identity theft, stalking, and other hazards of the modern world are infinitely easier if you’ve got all your info up on Facebook and just let anyone see it.

You probably aren’t ever going to get her to stop posting TMI status updates or stop asking you to join her in Farmville, but you can make sure she’s got good privacy settings. Sit down with her and go through them. It’s going to be painstaking work, but it’s the best thing you can do for her. Make sure she knows how to use lists so that only the people she really knows and trusts that can see her personal information, if you can’t convince her just to leave that information off her page altogether.

It’s quite possible she hasn’t considered the risks of Facebook the way you have. She may change her ways entirely once you tell her the risks, or she may not. She’s an adult, and you can only do so much to influence her ways.

You can also tell her that there is etiquette to Facebook that she may not be aware of. Commenting on everything makes you look kind of obsessive.

Keep in mind that she may have things to say about your behavior (on Facebook or elsewhere) that you may not be ready to hear, too. She’s your mom, after all. She may get defensive. Try to make the conversation more about your concern for her safety than your meddling in her personal life (which is what keeping track of someone’s Facebook habits is, FYI).

But do not expect her to change her behaviors at all. You need to just let it go. The fact that you’re upset by your mom’s behavior is pretty natural (close relationships bring easy annoyance), but obsessing over it is worse for you than her Facebook habits may be for her. Take a deep breath and remember that Facebook is not real life. Everyone has limits to what he or she does with Facebook, and your mom’s limits are just different from yours.

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