At a dinner party hosted at my house last night—the kind of party I like best because I can stay warm and cozy under my rock—some friends bemoaned one of the greatest drawbacks of Facebook’s rather excessive accessibility, which is the online presence of an entire generation of parental units. There are curbs to self-expression, far less dramatic than the Great Firewall of China, but no less effective, constituted by the knowledge that you can expect a call from your mother should you lack sufficient presence of mind to post: X is recovering from a bad hangover but is happy to have made the drive back home last night with only two serious dents on the fender.*
When my mother stumbled upon the breathtaking vista of surveillance possibilities presented by Facebook, I was the only one of her three children to immediately accept her “friend” request. My sister, confident in her immunity from parental ire as the youngest child, rejected it outright a few times. My brother considered it at length before morosely pressing the “accept” button. In either case, my mother handled the situation with a circumspection that was unfortunately denied my friend, J. Her mother, a formidable figure in academic and activist circles, posted the following message on her wall: Dear Anak, when will you accept your Mama as a friend? Love, Mama.
J.’s friend, P., reported another case where an appalled child posted the following status message: My mother is on Facebook!!! WTF??? The mother immediately posted the following comment: What does WTF mean? To which the child replied with admirable gravitas: It means “Welcome to Facebook”.
So to all the parents out there lurking in the shadows of the online world: Welcome to Facebook, indeed.
* The Great Firewall of China is the colloquial term for the Golden Shield Project which is described by the modern oracle Wikipedia as a “censorship and surveillance project operated by the Ministry of Public Security division of the government of the People’s Republic of China.” Wikipedia goes on to cite the adage—credited to Deng Xiaoping—that summarizes the project’s political and ideological background: “If you open the window for fresh air, you have to expect some flies to blow in.” I really couldn’t have said it better.