Facebook – Friend or Foe

The following article received Honorable Mention in the Magazine Feature Article category of the 79th Annual Writer’s Digest Writing Competition – 2010. Her Voice magazine, a Brainerd Dispatch publication, published it in 2009.

Facebook – Friend or Foe

All right, so I’m not on Facebook and I don’t Twitter. My bank statement arrives by the US Postal Service, the newspaper is delivered to my door and I write a letter every now and then. I do, however, have the internet, love sending e-mails, carry a Blackberry (that I’m still trying to figure out) and for the most part think I’m pretty with it. But I don’t want to be on Facebook. And therein lies the problem. My kids want me to be their “friend”.

“But, Mom,” wailed daughter #3, “it makes communicating so much easier and faster.”

“I suppose it does,” I responded. “If I were on Facebook, I could see pictures of my grandchildren, keep up with my kids’ lives and make comments right along with all your other friends.” Something is definitely wrong with this picture, I thought to myself. No need for Grandma’s Bragbook. My grandchildrens’ pictures have already been plastered on computer monitors across the country – all “friends” of Mom and Dad. Yes, the pressure definitely is on.

Four of my five children live out of state and this summer when daughter #1 came home for vacation she didn’t travel alone. She brought along a hidden agenda. A plan had been hatched by my kids, and she was the one elected to get Mom on Facebook. That plan fell through when I didn’t take the bait, but they landed a big one when they hooked my husband. Now he’s their friend.

This dilemma has gotten out of hand. It’s like a virus that spreads. Of my eight siblings, only three of us aren’t on Facebook, that is, unless they’ve bailed and become everybody’s “friend”. The other day I received an e-mail from my only surviving Uncle in Connecticut who asked me if I was on Facebook. He had some pictures he wanted me to see. He’s one of them, too. I sent an e-mail to let him know that I wasn’t but my husband was and, perhaps, I could view his pictures that way. Now they’re friends.

My problem didn’t start with Facebook, however. About two years ago daughter #1 convinced me to join MySpace so that I could view her pictures, but before I could figure it out she’d moved on to, you guessed it, Facebook. Out of curiosity, when I began to write this article I checked to see if my space was still on MySpace. I hadn’t visited that site in two years but sure enough, I was still hanging out there.

I wanted to delete myself but couldn’t since I’d forgotten my password and now have a new email address. I called my daughter hoping for a suggestion out of this situation. “Hey, did you know I’m still on MySpace? And I have two friends. You and a young guy named Tom. I have no clue who he is.” I laughed to myself thinking how I’d emphasized “young.”

“Tom is just the guy who set up your account, Mother.” It was her turn to laugh. “That means you have only one friend. Me.” I didn’t like the way she said that. I went on to tell her that I had been researching for an article I wanted to write about Facebook. In an unusually quiet manner she said, “Mother, you can’t write an article about something you know nothing about.” I didn’t like the way she said that either.

Don’t misjudge me. It’s not that I think there’s anything wrong with this new means of communication per se; it’s just that I don’t have time for it. As it is, I barely have time to answer my e-mails. No, wait a minute. Let me rephrase that. Previously, I didn’t have time to answer my e-mails. I have more time now since most of them were sent by people who now spend most of their time on Facebook.

Something else bothers me about this kind of communication. It just seems so…. so impersonal. In all honesty, however, my hesitancy has also become a matter of principle. Sometimes it becomes necessary to face down our kids. But late at night when the lights are low, the house is quiet, and it’s just me and my computer, am I tempted to log onto my husband’s Facebook? Maybe. Just a little. And if I succumb to that temptation will I tell my kids? Not a chance. Now, I think I’ll call my Mom and see what’s new with her. She’s not on Facebook either.

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