Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Relatives on Facebook, Please Read

Dearest Relatives,

This is an open letter, so I want to be clear to whom this applies. Brothers, sisters, cousins, you're all good. I'm talking to the generations that came before us: parents, aunts, uncles, grands, greats, and once or twice removeds. I'm even going to widen my umbrella and include friends relatives in this. Hell, I will include anyone thinking about interacting with a younger generation in their family on Facebook. Everyone can learn from what I'm about so say, please, come one and all to listen. See that usage of the word whom back there. That was for you guys. I can be hip.

I love you all, so I want to level with you. When you interact with us on Facebook, it makes us feel uncomfortable. If when I was a teenager you asked if you could hang out with us in my buddy's basement, that would be weird, right? I'm sorry to say, the same applies to Facebook.

That's not to say we don't want you. Facebook is an all inclusive place. I would never want to say anything that would make you feel left out, but I really need you to understand some unspoken Facebook rules. You have lived a lot longer than I have, so I don't want to sit here and tell you how it is, but when it comes to Facebook, this is an entirely new world, and I really need you to take my word for it.

Friend Requesting Me

Sometimes, just sometimes, we don't want to be Facebook friends with you. In fact, when you friend request us, it makes us feel very uneasy. I love you, but if we were Facebook friends, I would spend every day worrying about what I post, what my friends post, the photos I get tagged in, any number of things that happen on Facebook that you make me feel self-conscious about.

In your case, though, I actually don't mind. You're one of the cool ones, and I'd love to hear what comments you have to add to that post about that movie or that current event. What about your brother or aunt? You know, the one everyone can't stand but no one has the heart to tell him. If I accept your friend request, he can see that I'm friends with you and not him. Now we've hurt his feelings.

See, this stuff is more complicated than it seems. I know you wish we were closer, but you are unknowingly opening a whole can of worms.

Solution: Instead of just a friend request, you should send a private message, acknowledging that you understand these unspoken rules. Just be honest. You want to be Facebook friends, but you understand if maybe I have perfectly legitimate reasons that you should not take personally should I decline.

Friend Requesting My Friends

Seriously? Would you call my friends on the phone? Write them letters? (send them telegrams?)

I don't care if you came to visit that one time, and you really thought you hit it off. You are putting my friends in a very uncomfortable position. The following should never have to be uttered, "My mom said you denied her friend request, and it really hurt her feelings." I'm sorry to say this, but more often than not, if your child's friend accepted your friend request, it's not because they want to be your friend, it's because saying no would be so unendingly awkward.

Solution: You need to understand how inappropriate this is. There is a chance, though, my friend does want to be Facebook friends with you. Talk to me about it. Let me and my friend discuss the issue. If, in the end, we decide it's not a good idea, it's never personal.

Interacting With Me

Remember how long it took you to learn how to use the remote on the new satellite TV? Now imagine instead of accidentally ordering OnDemand pornography, you are embarassing me in front of my friends. I know you're not doing it on purpose, and I love how much you want to be a part of my life. I just wish you were more careful.

Solution: Do not post on my wall or timeline, and do not comment on anything I post, unless it's something innocuous like "great job" or "aww, too bad." Do not talk about my childhood. Do not say how much you miss me. If you want to brag about me to your friends, do it on your own wall. If you just want to talk, use e-mail. The world does not need to know we're going to brunch next week.

Overall, I just need you to understand just how complicated this all is. I love you. I really do. I'm sorry if any of this upsets you, but when you go on Facebook, you're playing by our rules. If you want to avoid these upsetting situations, I suggest you follow my mother's lead. This is what happened when I found out she was on Facebook:

Me: Do you, um, want... to be Facebook friends?
Mom: Hell no.

Your Dearest Son/Nephew/Grand-whatever, Twice-Removed

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