Friday, March 27, 2009

Would You Friend Your Kids on Facebook?

Some of us parents lead a double life. Not the exciting kind where you end up in Ankara with no recollection of how you got there or why you're wearing only one stiletto, but a double life of the mind. We make our mom faces, wear our mom clothes, and use our mom vocabulary. Even those of us who are "cool moms" create a mom persona -- it doesn't have to be all braided hair and cookie dough. My mom persona is constructed out of different parts: part is my own personality, part is what I think mothers should look and sound like, part is how my mother was, and another part is a new creation -- something that came out of me after my kids came along, that wasn't there before. I like being a mom.

However, I do have a separate piece of my brain that's entirely personal. This piece is a survivor from a time before my children; maybe part single girl, part newlywed, maybe even part teenager. I try to let it change and grow apart from my "mom" self, so that I don't just become the mom and abandon the real me. So that I don't look around when my kids leave for college and realize I have nothing to do but wait for grandchildren. Writing novels is part of that separate piece, and blogging is part of the separate piece (peace?) and recently Facebook, for me and a lot of moms I know, has become part of it.

Yes, we've always had our email lists and phone calls, but there's something about posting OMFG, I need them to be asleep. Must. have. quiet. as one of my friends did recently, that provides instant gratification. You wouldn't write an email to say "Why is it that my children think they need to physically help me open a pack of gum?" But if you Facebook it or Twitter it, you'll have five or six amusing answers within a few minutes, and nowadays really that's all you want. Email has become the new snail mail -- it feels cumbersome, antiquated, and formal, like you need a really good reason to do it, especially to a whole group. Facebook and Twitter is where you go for instant luv now. To shout out to your mom homies, and hear a "hellz yeah" back. Of course, you can't shout out to your mom homies with the children in the room.

But it's not just about complaining about your kids. As more people find and use Facebook, your friend list becomes a synthesis of your entire life. You have high school friends, college friends, ex-boyfriends, professional acquaintances, people who only knew you when you played in a rock band, people who only knew you when you were a cool writer chick, etc. Putting all these people in one place is perplexing enough, without introducing them en masse to your children, who may not know that Mommy wrote a kind of edgy experimental book back in the 90s, who may not see Mom as a rocker, who have no concept of any previous life that Mom may have led, or really anything that existed before they, the children, came into the world.

Which is why you get posts like this, from another friend: I need to post something funny but don't want any speshul snowflaks to see. To which I responded: Whisper it in groanupps langwadj. And another mom added: We must find a way around this... Well, don't we still have email? Don't we still have the telephone? Yeah, we do. But since we've tasted the sweet, sweet nectar of Facebook and Twitter, we can't go back to the old way of doing things. Anyone want to run out and register

To recap, there are three reasons to NOT friend your kids on Facebook:

1. No more bitching about the kids or reporting the funny things they do/say.
2. Kids get to meet Ralph the pierced stoner and experience all his video posts, then ask me how I know this Ralph guy and what those people are doing with that garden hose.
3. Now I have to edit everything I say to make sure it's safe for the dinner table.

But some of us have kids old enough to have their own Facebook accounts. High schoolers, even. So, are there any reasons TO friend your kids?

1. Know what your kids are up to. This was actually the reason I joined Facebook in the first place, and my first two friends were my two teenaged stepchildren. See -- it works both ways. Maybe someplace on LiveJournal there's a post called "Would You Friend Your Mom on Facebook?"
2. If they ask you to friend them, and you don't friend them, then that feels mean. And it is mean. There's just no way around it. You don't want to say "I won't be your friend" to your child, even if you explain it in the kindest possible way.
3. Maybe, just maybe, it's a good thing for the kids to see their moms in this context.

For example: Yes, Mom has friends. Yes, Mom makes snarky comments about politics to people I've never met. No, I don't get all the inside jokes on her Flair corkboard. No, I didn't know she went to college in three different places. Seeing mom in the context of other adults, in the context of the great big world, and witnessing some interactions that have nothing to do with children, nothing to do with them, might just be good for our kids, especially the older ones. I have no solution to the privacy problem or our need for an "Adults Only" zone that's just as fun and immediate as Facebook, but until we figure it out, I am pretty sure that friending your kid is the only thing you can do.

What do you think?

Delicious Related post: Twitter, Tumblr, and Tags: You Are Still All Alone


  1. I'll preface this by saying that this is purely theoretical, as my kids aren't old enough for Facebook yet....

    But. I have some professional contacts on Facebook as well as personal ones. I try to keep my behavioral there fairly professional, or at least keep the silliness to one-liners. My kids already know that when they are older, friending me will be a REQUIREMENT if they wish to become active on Facebook or other, similar sites. Maybe once they pass 18 we'll mutually decide to part ways, but until then, I consider it my job to keep an eye on 'em.

    And I'll just go back to private messages for the stuff I don't want them seeing. ;)

  2. Wow, a lot of food for thought here. My immediate reaction was "Of course, I want to know what they're up to!" But I had never thought of it in the context of "And now they'll know what you are up to!" Yuk! Fortunately, none of the old beaus have made any snarky comments (probably because their wives are on too), but who knows. Neither have my college friends or the ones from "the cult".

    But I think you're could you say, "Let's not be friends to your child?" Oh well, I have a few more years to freely enjoy it. I'll think about it then!

  3. My kid is 6 and by the time he can facebook, I'm sure there will be something else. But my mom-in-law has friended me, and so now I edit what I post.

    Would I friend my kid if were 16? I honestly don't know,

  4. your kids don't know about TGTOSP? i plan to require any children i may father in the future to read that book before even trying to have a conversation with me.

  5. Mir, then there's the whole other thing where your kids' "What color fruit salad are you?" or "Susie poked Billy with a cattle prod on Superpoke!" alerts start showing up on your wall spaces. I think that Facebook/Twitter is defining a whole new integration of public and private personas in general. CEOs tweeting what they ate for lunch, etc. The walls are coming down.

    Leslie, that's a whole different post -- do you friend your ex's wife? Hehehe.

    Marta, you're right -- by the time Benny and Sadie are old enough, there will be something even more transparent and invasive. Actually, it's kind of a relief to me, letting the different parts of my life mingle a little.

    Charles, my kids don't know about it and I don't know about it.

  6. Hey, Lydia I don't friend the wives. One of them is under the delusion that her husband is sweet! I would hate to let it slip that he wasn't always! : )

  7. Three of my four kids have facebooks and I'm friends with all of them. So handy to see the pictures my daughter took hanging around on our roof while I was out all day. My mother-in-law has a facebook too and it's cute how she talks to my kids and her other grandchildren.

  8. Yes, I am now outed as the crabby, ignorant mom with behbehs in her Facebook friends. It's really, really hard, because honestly, I don't mind having my own teens on my Facebook. They're older, they are pretty up to speed on issues while still being blissfully innocent about some things. (For example, my 17 year old doesn't *get* that KY commercial with the mom and dad having frantic sex while their kids are gone. She knows that sex is involved, but doesn't understand the whole KY thing. I find this oddly comforting, but I digress...) So anyway, it's not the kids; it's the KIDS of my FRIENDS. I don't know how to say no to them, and don't want to hurt feelings, so I let them in. Hence my quandry of what can I get away with without having the mothers of these angels descend upon me like hungry, pissed off bears. I know what I can get away with around my own kids; I have no desire to deal with the older children of other folks. I'm full of kids, and that's obvious to all who know me. (Sigh...)
    It's hard, man! I love my own time, and the internet is a get away for me, since my private time amounts to an hour of so before I collapse and those random, thrilling trips to Walmart or Dillards if I'm real lucky.
    I should learn how to say "no".

  9. Colyn I luv yeh! I know what you mean about worrying about other people's kids, but I think their moms should know what they're getting into if they get into it, you know?

    I think having the kids on Facebook forces me to edit myself, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, but I'm also pushing myself to not edit all topics, you know? Like not edit entire parts of myself out of it.

    Your kids are supercool and awesome BTW.

  10. Hi Lydia! I don't do American Idol, but I do facebook - want to be my friend? :)

    As for kids and facebook... hmmm, I can see the dilemma. I tend to keep facebook fairly civilized, though, as I have many professional contacts and colleagues there. I mean, I get silly sometimes - I'm not ashamed of that - but I don't kiss & tell on there, haha, nor do I do a lot of quizzes or other apps - not for any principled reason, just that I don't. And I save my kid-related complaints and antics and angst for xanga, where I still have a more intimate community of mom-friends. Besides, I usually need more than 140 characters (or whatever it is) for my mom angst ;)

    Like you said, by the time our kids are old enough to have a fb account (which could be soon - Miles is 11-1/2, but I'm still limiting computer use), there will be other concerns, I'm sure!


  11. Mothers should be required to take intelligence tests before they're allowed to have children.

  12. My 13yo daughter just friended me and I thought about not accepting since FB is my fantasy world away from home ;) BUT, then I remembered that I can censor certain friends and control what they see. Go to SETTINGS, then PRIVACY, then PROFILE. Click on CUSTOMISE for each setting that you want to block your kids. Go to the bottom of that window (EXCEPT) and enter their name. Save your changes and then go back to the top of the page and enter your child's name in the box that says: See how a friend sees your profile. Works great ;)

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