Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Etiquette Rules for Facebook (A Guide for Fathers, Dung Beetles and Glenn Beck)

Posted by CFM.

Today, I became a fan of a dung beetle on Facebook.

Apparently, someone thought it would spark revolution if this tiny creature gathered more virtual pals than conservative blow-hard Glenn Beck. Thus far, Glenn Beck is outpacing the dung beetle by about 450,000 fans. It's discouraging, but it's not keeping me up at night, because Facebook is not real.

I am not really a fan of dung beetles.

Dung beetles do not really care if I like them.

I fanned the dung beetle without putting much thought into the decision. I take it for granted that everyone involved realizes my relationship with the dung beetle is fleeting, a momentary announcement to my friends via my profile page, and nothing more.

When it comes to Facebook etiquette, though, there are different expectations for interactions with dung beetles than there are for, say, fathers.

My father friended me on Facebook.

Then he unfriended me.

Then he friended me again.

This is the most I have heard from him in more than 10 years. Our relationship before that wasn’t great, either, after many rocky years during which my parents divorced and remarried various people with whom I did not get along. As I entered adulthood, I made a few efforts to reconnect with my father. I was rebuffed, I gave up and I tried not to think too much about him until he showed up on Facebook.

I really don't give too much thought to out-of-the-blue Facebook friendship advances when they come from casual high school acquaintances I have not seen since I successfully grew out my bangs and learned to walk around without my gaze glued to my shoes. (I don't think those two events are necessarily related, but they did occur at about the same time.)

When a person I barely knew back in those bad, old days of high school casually friends me, I assume that person, like the dung beetle, understands our Facebook connection does not actually make us friends.

I politely accept those requests, flip through my yearbook to place names with the (17-year-old, outdated images of) faces, then forget about these faux friendships until a status update about weather or dinner menus reminds me of these tenuous connections.

All of this is absolutely fine for Facebook friendships with former adolescent acquaintances.

Blood relatives, though, should follow a different set of etiquette rules on Facebook, I think.

A personal message should be required to accompany the family "friend" request.

In the case of my father, something like, "I remember when you were born! What's up?" might be appropriate.

After I accepted my erstwhile parent's foray into Facebook friendship, I wondered about his motives, but also about what he would gather about me from my page.

I'm not a 16-year-old angry girl anymore. But maybe that's not clear from status updates like this one: "Put this on your status if you know someone who deserves a smack in the face with a shovel."

Does a relative who chose not to RSVP to my wedding want to know that my gangsta name is Rebizzle, that I have never gambled in Las Vegas or that I am a member of a group called, "Can this dung beetle get more fans than Glenn Beck?"

Probably not.

But I hope he hangs out in my Facebook photo albums. I hope he sees his three-year-old granddaughter dressed up like a fairy princess for Purim last year, and my younger daughter’s first birthday when she cried even as she shoved cake into her mouth and the two of them bundled up in their warmest clothes to revel in a rare deep South snowstorm. I hope he sees all that and realizes that my little girls are pretty awesome in pictures, but they are way, way better in real life.


Marie said...

If my dad had a facebook he might actually "see" my kids too.

Marit said...

beautifully written

Mary Joan Koch said...

I hope you dad's friending you is a start.

My daughters, sons-in-law, brothers, nieces and nephews are all on Facebook. It has brought us closer and helped us enjoy the 9 new babies in the last three years.

At almost 65, I sometimes feel like the oldest person on Facebook; I never get out of the blue invitations from high school classlmates.

Anonymous said...

I think this might be my very favorite basement post ever. I know all to well from where you speak. My very best wishes to you.

Anonymous said...

In the exact same boat...thanks for sharing!

Daniel's Mom said...

Am smiling b/c I've been seriously considering unfriending my sister, except I think it would hurt me and not her. She is no longer the sister who volunteered to stay a month when we had our twins. Instead, she has become someone who finds her godson's autism "depressing" and doesn't want to be "bothered."
Family. Go figure.

Anonymous said...

I could have written this. Except my father's not my "friend" on Facebook, or anywhere else. He hasn't acknowledged my existance in 15 years, and before that, since I was four years old.

Facebook has brought wonderful people back into my life and allowed me to close the book forever on chapters of my life that have caused me pain since elementary school, and for that, I'm truly grateful. But my father wants even less to do with me than girls who called me a bitch and a whore in high school. I find that stunning.

I'd love to send him pictures of my two kids along with a note that says "This is as close as you will ever get to these two little pieces of gold in your entire life. I will never, ever let you worm their way into their life and then abandon them the way you did to me."

Anonymous said...

@Redstocking Grandma - I've got you beaten by over 2 years, and I have a Facebook page.

My ex-husband. We separated in 1978 and divorced the next year. Got along fine until he married a woman who was threatened by his first family and started twisting things up. Anyway, he's had no contact with his children (3) in nearly 20 years now. They've grown up, married, become parents, and become middle-aged without him. He has never met his grandchildren. And now..on Facebook, he is his daughters' friend.

But you know what bothers me? He has me blocked. That's an awful lot of anger after over 30 years. I'm not annoyed by it, more amused than anything.

Unknown said...

This really was beautifully written. I'm sorry your Father's treating you badly. No one deserves that. And I couldn't agree more with your assessment of Facebook, you made me chuckle a couple of times. I have to agree with the poster at 7:27pm that this may be my favorite basement post ever (except for the fact that your father is an ass).

Anonymous said...


About six months after my initial request, my ex-husband of 28 years added me as his Facebook friend, and I would have described our relationship as cordial. He realized he was missing out on pictures of his grandchildren.

I realize I am using a different google email than RSG.

countryfriedmama said...

Thank you so much for your generous support. I ended up posting this on my blog shortly before it appeared here (thank you, Catherine!).

I originally submitted it here for fear my father would see the post and read it as an "F-you" letter. I didn't want to offend him. Which might just be the craziest part of the whole story.

But then he unfriended me AGAIN, and I decided it was high time to own my words and my feelings. If he sees it, well then he'll know at least one thing about me that isn't more than a decade old.

Anonymous said...

My parents have Facebook and I have blocked them. If they choose not to be a part of my real life, and know my children that way, they don't deserve to know me and my children through Facebook. They don't deserve to know my status updates and my relationships with others. They made their choice, now they have to live with it.

Good luck to you.

ElizabethZ said...

I relate to this so much. My mom divorced my dad when I was 3. I saw him every other weekend till I was 11 then he moved to LA w/ my stepmom and I have seem him exactly 3 times since then. When I was 14 I took a trip for 2 weeks to visit him. When I was 25 he came to visit me for a long weekend. Last time was 2005 when he came to town for my wedding. I thought things might be different with twin grandsons on the way but he disappeared again. He doesn't stay in touch, he hasn't met any of his grandsons (he has 3 now), never sends them a christmas present or birthday card. He showed up on Facebook and that is where he found out he had a third, when I accepted his friend request - his note said "hey, there is a 3rd child in this photo!!" Yeah dad, there is - sucks I didn't care enough to tell you about it, huh? I just don't care anymore.

I hear people talk about their "daddies" and how great they are, how they couldn't live without them, how they are daddy's girl. It makes me sad, makes me jealous, but I get over it I have moved on.

I always have to remind myself that it is not me, it's him. He is the ass.

Shnerfle said...

How did I *just* find this basement thingy? LOVE! Everything I've read has been poignant and funny and wonderful.