Facebook as a family affair

Untag all those photos, because my Dad is now on Facebook

When my Dad answered the phone on Monday, he had exciting news. “I joined Facebook,” he said casually. I froze, shocked. I had long feared this moment, but had imagined the danger had passed until now.

He was already updating his profile, adding friends, and uploading pictures. In short, he had already gotten the hang of things.

He informed me he already had several ‘friends’ – Uncle Yves, Uncle Burton, and Cousin Fay. It was a short, but powerful, line-up of family and friends who I had been alarmed to see entering the social media bubble. My fourteen-year-old brother, unsurprisingly, seemed reluctant to accept his friend request.

My Mum seemed slightly amused by this development. “Your sister and I went to the mountains yesterday, but your Dad stayed at home,” she whispered on the phone in the kitchen, anxious not to be overheard in the living room, where he was tagging photos of a fly fishing trip. “He’s been on Facebook all weekend!”

We shouldn’t be surprised. My Dad is an old hand with the Blackberry – we regard it as significantly more important than his second kidney. He doesn’t just use it for e-mail, either. Way back when, he introduced me to the first Arctic Monkeys album by bringing up a BBC article on them during a family dinner.

But long after he had signed up for a YouTube account so he could save all those videos of shark attacks, he didn’t seem to have an interest in Facebook. I thought he saw it as a bastion of poor grammar, but perhaps it just flew below his radar.

Not so for many parents these days. Although Facebook used to be for kids-only (or at least those under 25), a haven for party photos and un-censored rambling, it’s slowly being sanitized. As parents enter the fray, photos are rapidly being un-tagged, language quickly cleaned up, and ‘girls of the world’ applications surreptitiously removed.

Students have been cautioned for years to remember that the internet is a public space. But the disdain of a future potential employer is no kind of motivation to be careful, compared to the more current, and more horrifying, prospect of my Dad browsing photos of me at “Beerjing 2008.”

Some parents are on Facebook to be snoops, it’s true, but most of the parents I have seen seem to just want to keep up with their kid’s lives, and maybe some of their own friends, too.

They leave messages commenting on profile pictures, telling their children they miss them, and occasionally finishing with an ‘xoxo.’

Now, my own Dad has a chance to do the same. Although I tried to talk myself out of the idea, eventually I did a light purge of my own profile, and sent him a friend request.

I knew I might have to be a little more careful in future, but I figured it would probably be a good thing, for my privacy and my career prospects.

He just accepted my request, and I’m looking forward to posting links to articles I know we’ll disagree on, and maybe some new music I think he’ll like. The best part is getting a peak at his newest photos long before Christmas rolls around. There’s four albums already, and it’s almost possible that he has better things to do than “creep” my profile.

And now, I’ve received another friend request. It’s from my Aunt. ‘Friend suggestions’ are popping up, flashing the faces of my Uncle, cousins, and family friends. And I’m not quite sure what I’ve unleashed.