An open letter to embarrassing parents on Facebook
I can remember a time long, long ago, when people logged onto Facebook to wind down. When social media was relatively free of people's mums and dads. It was like a digital wonderland. Things were carefree in that golden age. Our Facebook statuses were funnier and more profane, the drunken pictures of us weren't embarrassing and Christmas dinner was never ruined for the whole family because someone's invitation to play Farmville had been rejected. Back then, Facebook felt like an adult-free world, a playground where the rules of etiquette and interaction were ours to invent. We enjoyed our online lives without fear of criticism or reproach, and that was fine and dandy for us, thanks very much.
But then suddenly everything changed. That was the fateful day when you logged on. I'm talking about you, mum and dad. Yes, you got curious about what your kids were spending all their time doing and it wasn't enough for you to glance over our shoulders and tut-tut at the videos we watched, or the GIFs we sent our friends. It wasn't enough for you to ask us whether "lol" meant "lots of love" and then insist we were wrong anyway. It wasn't enough for you to let us have our fun. You had to join in, and much like pole-dancing, Facebook is something that's totally spoiled by a parent's participation.
Yeah, I know you want to be down with the kids, and that's nice, it really is. But trust me on this, most of the time you don't really know what you're doing. You're winging it aren't you? Improvising, like someone who has shown up for the wrong exam but wants to finish the paper regardless, because they're too proud to leave. That must be why you write on our walls asking us to pick up a few groceries from the supermarket on the way home instead of sending a message. Or why you type entirely in block capitals for no reason.
It's the only explanation as to why you'd like my friend's profile picture from 2009, why you think your newsfeed can answer the same questions that Google can, or why you only ever seem to share stories about dogs that have gone missing in your neighbourhood.
It's even worse when you share the one account. Mum, I know you're embarrassed to admit that you desperately want to know your son's business, but if you're going to use Dad's Facebook account to stalk my old girlfriends then you could at least do us both a favour and not write things like: "Gr8 pictures hun xoxox." I dunno, maybe it's just me but that seems a little out of character for Dad, wouldn't you say?
Similarly, it really gives me the creeps when I see that Dad has shared a post about a Thursday afternoon discount at a hairdresser and nail bar. And don't comment things like "wow, so beautiful" on pictures of your friend's daughter's vacation - that's the sort of thing that can get a man arrested.
It's even worse when you actually have control of your account, Dad. I'm not sure how often I can be told how important it is to support our troops when we aren't currently being invaded. I don't look forward to seeing dad jokes written in cyberspace - I've heard quite enough of them while living at home anyway. I've almost become numb to the experience of you typing "get a haircut" every time I change my profile picture (because nothing less than early-onset male pattern baldness will convince you that I'm not some sort of hippie). And the politics: dear god, the politics. It's not like you ever chat politics or religion at home. When did you become an armchair activist?
The baby pictures; don't get me started on the baby pictures. I don't know if you guys are aware of this, but Facebook is a place where people keep up-to-date about what their friends are up to currently. As in, right now. Nobody on earth cares about the family holiday we went on twenty years ago, or a sentimental picture of me at primary school or, worst of all, some picture you took of me taking a bath with a friend when I was three.
I don't intend to be mean here. I fully accept that Facebook wasn't really meant for me either. Back when Mark Zuckerberg dreamed it up, Facebook was supposed to be for Ivy League college kids. But there's something which just doesn't sit right about your floundering use of the platform.
But hey, you've both been embarrassing me in person since I was small, so maybe it's stupid of me to expect that not to happen online. I wish that you could just emigrate to your own special social network; a Facebook for oldsters where they can do whatever they want. But I know it's just a pipe dream, and I guess having parents who can wear your ego down like a nub of chalk is just the price you have to pay if you want them in your life. I don't regret accepting your friend requests, and I enjoy our family group chat, but sometimes I just really miss the good old days when Facebook was parent-free.