Saturday, June 05, 2010

The Facebook Family

I hid a few people tonight on Facebook (including a relative) and unfriended someone from high school. Their language annoyed me. Sure, they've got freedom of speech, but I've also got the freedom to not have to subject myself to it. There was a time when Twitter and Facebook was all just me and a few friends having a lark. I'm not sure that I changed any when Lori signed up for an account, but I know with the addition of former pastors and then current pastors, current church friends and finally my own parents, I did change my tone. And now today, the 14-year-old son of friends in our small group just got his bright shiny new Facebook account, makes me wonder if there's anything else I'm going to need to think twice before posting. This time, I don't think there is. I'd like to think I'm being mostly authentic. Maybe a more upbeat and positive version of myself, but one that's true and one that's safe for a 14-year-old to see. Considering the things we were talking about when I was 14, I'm pretty confident there's nothing I need to think twice about in anything I post, but it still gave me pause for a moment tonight.

It is an interesting thing... this young man's parents are both on Facebook and I think one or two of his grandparents. Me being on here with my parents didn't seem like much because I was already a grownup at the time, but what will it be like when 2 or 3 (or even 4?) generations are all in a public setting like Facebook or whatever comes next? It is something to think about. How does it change the parent-child dynamic? I think for the best, actually.

As we grow up, we look at our parents, these big tall people who seem to know so much with a serious push-pull going on. They protect us, care for us and love us which draws us close, but at the same time, they criticize us, punish us and prevent us from doing all kinds of fun things like riding bicycles off the roof while wearing a Superman cape which causes us to want to push them away. Keeping that push-pull dynamic in proper tension is an incredibly challenging task.

And then at some point, things go off track. The push becomes stronger than the pull and suddenly we realize that our parents aren't as smart as we thought... Do they even know who Superman is or that he can fly? Did they have bikes -- or roofs (rooves?) -- when they were kids? (They did do all that walking to school... maybe bikes would have made it quicker.) And so we go off, spread our wings (or capes) and attempt to fly, flounder around for awhile, and if we're lucky, avoid completely crashing and burning.

And then suddenly, without warning, and without our permission, we're promoted to adulthood. And suddenly we're no longer at the kid's table. So we sit there pretending that we know what's going on, relating from our own experiences, listening carefully and realizing our parents do know a little more about what's going on than we gave them credit for. And we think to ourselves... why on earth did they not share this with us? Was it for their amusement? But we don't dare ask -- we know the answer -- they tried but we weren't speaking the same language.

But now, we desperately, quietly try to make up the gap, trying to quickly get "up to speed" as it were. Without letting on that that's what we're trying to do. Amusing, isn't it? Of course they know, nothing's new. This has been happening over and over and over again since the beginning of time.

But Facebook upends everything. There is no kids' table or parent's table. Just one big table. Now, the version of ourselves that we place online will give our children more insight into what we're really like... that we don't really know it all... that we do have wisdom to share... that you can form lasting friendships that will last decades... that people's thoughts in the closer-to-anonymity of online will show you a slightly different version of someone than you thought. That people can still rub you the wrong way (even family).

So how will it change things? How will breaking down the walls and letting everyone come to the table sooner and stay at the table longer change family dynamics? Only time will tell.
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