OOOOHHHH mothers, they are so wonderful. For thousands of years they haven't stopped gushing at how wonderful their children are. Dudes, you know cave men and women busted out the "me son make fire bettah than your son" on more than a few occasions.
Fortunately for us kids, we no longer have to worry about making fires, or hunting the biggest game. HOWEVER, this doesn't mean we are out of the clear entirely with our over zealous parents - insert the mid 2000s and the communication boom that we so lovingly call social media.
Nerds, meet my mom Doreen ...
She's totally a Betty isn't she?
The reason why I started typing at the age of 2, and was on Prodigy before I hit double digits was because of this loverly human being. My mom isn't techie per say, but she's very tuned into tech and gets excited about growing her small business. (My mom is a technical writer. Basically anything you've ever read from an insurance brochure or marketing piece was prolly written by her. Very very very niche business, but very very very successful for her.)
So, access to the internet and computers growing up was a no brainer. My mom was ALLLLLL about it and both of my parents encouraged my curiosity with tech. (They even bought me my first HTML book when I was 8.)
My parents did their best to keep their eye on my tech usage as a kid. We were given a family shared cell phone for when we were out and about (which was NOT cool to have as a kid, btw since this means you basically had lojack and the whole "I didn't have a quarter to call you" was never an acceptable response) and they closely monitored my activities online. Well done, mom and dad! I didn't end up in a Chris Hansen to Catch a Predator Dateline special!
Either way, when I moved to California in 2004 my parents definitely did their best to still keep tabs on me. After all, I was only 19 and I was moving cross the country without knowing a single soul - it's only natural. At that point, I called my parents every day, and even texted them periodically just letting them know I was alrite and still alive.
In October of that year I vivdly remember being on set for a music video (a very LA thing) and the director showing me on his laptop this thing called MySpace.
I freaked out looking at his profile page wondering why would ANYONE want to have a recorded account of how many friends that they have. (Loner from the womb!) I was ALL about chat rooms as that was my only social interaction growing up, but this?? Friend counting?? Posting pictures??? Wow! Way to announce to the world what a loser I am, I thought.
You'll love this, Jen, the director said. You're into tech - this should be right up your alley.
INTO tech, I thought, but not INTO plastering what a lame existence I lead.
Sure, I said laughing, sounds great.
A few more months went by, and my friends back east were getting on this thing called Facebook. To access Facebook though you had to have a college email address. Not having gone to college I was outta luck in that department. I then went back to what the director showed me a few months prior, and later that evening I decided to create a profile on MySpace.
I wasn't sure what it was about, but apparently this was the "thing" that everyone is doing - so I might as well check it out.
I was working at the time as a receptionist for a movie marketing crowd here in LA, so I had access to a computer and would sit for hours and hours and hours surfing the net in between calls and deliveries.
Hmmmmm ... I thought one day .... that Myspace thing ... might as well see what it's about.
I then began searching through profiles, randomly adding people.
Conversations then sparked, and the love affair then became immediate. OMG OMG OMG I thought, people are ACTUALLY commenting on my pictures and COMMENTING on my page!! This makes me look cool, even though I'm not!
YES! WINNING! I thought.
I then proceeded to put all of my energy into my Myspace page pimping it out with HTML glitter codes, adding music, and uploading a bunch of pictures from various parties I went to specifically so I could look cool on Myspace.
Flash forward to 2006 and my mom comes out to LA for a visit.
I go to the bathroom for a moment and on my Macbook Pro she sees the Myspace home screen.
What is this, she asks?
Oh, mom, it's called Myspace. It's a social site.
But it's online, she said.
Yeah, I know - Michael (my college graduate brother) has Facebook, I have this.
She didn't browse my page immediately, but later that week I saw a friend request.
Doreen Friel wants to be your friend. Accept?
Oh dear god, I thought staring at the invite. That didn't take very long.
Being genuinely a pretty good kid, I saw no harm in my mother seeing a picture or two from some rather inappropriate places, so I clicked accept and just like that - boom, my mom was in my digital life.
After a few weeks she got the hang of everything and one day I got a text ...
"So, why am I not in your top 8? I gave birth to you!"
Really mom, really? You want to be in my top 8? FINNEE!!
I happily obliged not wanting to start an argument, especially over something so trite like Myspace placement.
The next year, Facebook opened up to non-college graduates and slowly but surely my digital presence migrated over there ... my mother of course in tow.
My mom's take on Facebook wasn't as immediate as it was on Myspace, but before I knew it she was creating events for her little get togethers, and was Facebook chatting me like no other.
I very genuinely do not have a problem with my mom being in my online social life. I am, however, the exception not the rule. Here is a step by step guide on understanding each platform and understanding when it is okay to contact your child using it.
Facebook: I can't begin to tell you how grateful I am that Facebook was not around when I was in school. I didn't get into a lot of trouble, but the pressure to have pictures of you next to alcohol bottles and at wild parties is intense for today's youth. Facebook is a highlight reel of your life, you have to keep up with your classmates and have the appearance of being cool at all times.
Parents should only use Facebook to privately message their kids. Do not post on their walls, and do NOT comment on any statuses or any newly uploaded pictures. You can look, but commenting on some uh, extra curricular activities can cause a lot of embarrassment to your children. I know this is your primary goal in life to show how much you love your child and to say how special it was that little Bobby finally stopped wetting the bed, however, on Facebook it is not appreciated nor accepted. You get one shot to be your child's "friend" on Facebook - don't blow it.
When it comes to friending in general too, understand that some kids just aren't okay with it. It doesn't mean that they love you any less, or that they are trying to hide anything - some kids just want their space. Respect it, please.
Twitter: Parents should under no circumstances be on Twitter. Period end of sentence. Twitter is where your child goes to vent random thoughts - not necessarily have meaningful conversation. They want to talk about how bad a teacher is, or how crazy they got last night doing XXX. There is no need for a parent to know any of this unless your child is still in high school and still underage. If your kid is out in the big world - let them be, you have no reason to be on twitter and reading their inner most thoughts. Your kids will call you and tell you everything that you need to know, trust that .... please.
Foursquare/ Facebook Places: Parents do not need to be involved in any location based social media activities - period end of sentence.
Texting: I love this video that Olay just put out because the "writing a text is like writing a letter" conversation is one that my roomie and I had just the other day ...
Texts are short blurbs of communication. My mom just texted me yesterday to let me know she got her Mother's day card. She laughed, thanked me for it, and signed off with 143 (nerd code for I love you). Texting your kids can be great and appreciated for both parties because it says, I'm thinking of you but I'm too busy to call you at this exact second. My mom and I will text during the day if we've recently just spoken and have forgotten to say something - but please know that when you send a text, we can see who it is. There's no need to sign it "love mom" or "dear so and so." We're good to go on that front.
Text your kids when you have something quick to say, and you know their response will also in turn be quick. If you're writing something really long, just pick up the phone and call - so much easier!
Facetime/ Skype: I have yet to get into this with my family, but I think it's great! Sometimes I wish I could reach through the phone and get a "mom hug" but Skype and Facetime can be a wonderful visual for any of those who live far away from their parents. All Facetime/ Skype meetings should be planned ahead of time out of respect for both parties, but I say a total win for both kids and adults on this one.
Note to my mom: let's start skyping!
So let's recap a bit shall we?
Facebook - it's okay to be on and be friends as long as you don't comment on statuses or photos and keep all forms of communication to private messaging.
Twitter - not a place for parents.
Foursquare/ Facebook places - not a place for parents.
Texting - good for short blurbs of communication
Facetime/ Skype - good to go as long as you have a time set.
And remember moms, just because your child might not want to be friends with you in social media doesn't mean that they love you any less. It is simply a boundary they are placing in their life - and they are politely asking for you to respect it. Unless of course, your kid is under 18 and still in school - then you reserve the right to stalk their page like no other!!
Happy social media-ing everyone and I love you mom!
Agree or disagree with me? Tell me on Twitter (just not you mom, sorry!)
::Special thanks to @olayus for the Mother's Day sponsorship lovin::