Thursday, June 7, 2007

NYTimes: ‘omg my mom joined facebook!!’

Cyberfamilias: ‘omg my mom joined facebook!!’
New York Times |June 7, 2007 | By MICHELLE SLATALLA

I HAVE reached a curious point in life. Although I feel like the same precocious know-it-all cynic I always was, I suddenly am surrounded by younger precocious know-it-all cynics whose main purpose appears to be to remind me that I’ve lost my edge.

Many of these people are teenagers.
Some of them I gave birth to.
One was in a breech position.
And the other day, as I drove home with one of my tormenters in the passenger seat, she started laughing at the way I pronounced “Henri Cartier-Bresson.”
“Ha ha ha, is that how you think his name sounds?” my daughter said. “Oh, my God. Who told you that?”
It was my college photography professor. Twenty-six years ago.
Rather than draw attention to my age, I tried to trick her into thinking of me as someone cool, as we said 26 years ago. “I hope you don’t think this gives you the right to make fun of me on your Facebook page,” I said.
“My Facebook page?” this person asked incredulously. “My page? Is that what you think Facebook is?”
So last week I joined Facebook, the social network for students that opened its doors last fall to anyone with an e-mail address. The decision not only doubled its active membership to 24 million (more than 50 percent of whom are not students), but it also made it possible for parents like me to peek at our children in their online lair.
At, I eyed the home page (“Everyone can join”) with suspicion. I doubted Facebook’s sincerity. What could a site created by a student who was born three years after I started mispronouncing “Henri Cartier-Bresson” want with me?
After I got my Profile page, the first thing I did was to search for other members — my daughter and her friends — to ask them to be my friends.
Shockingly, quite a few of them — the friends, not the daughter — accepted my invitation and gave me access to their Profiles, including their interests, hobbies, school affiliations and in some cases, physical whereabouts.
Out of the blue, I got an invitation to be a friend from one of my neighbors, Ted, who coincidentally had just joined to check out the applications that independent software developers started adding to the site last month. He showed me how to add movie reviews and snippets of music to my Profile.

I invited my friends — my actual friends — to join Facebook. Some did. I sent a “poke” to one to say hello. I wrote on another’s “wall.” I tagged a photo to make it appear on my friend Tina’s Profile. In gratitude, she “poked” me.
Feeling as if I had achieved a minor victory in the name of parents of teenagers everywhere, I phoned Michael Wesch, an assistant professor of cultural anthropology at Kansas State University whose research focuses on social networks, to offer him some real-life data to work with.
He pointed out that there are a number of other social networks — sober, grown-up places like (for making business contacts) and (for social activists) and (for amateur genealogists) — where I could cavort without offending my daughter.

“There is a really good social network for older people, too,” Professor Wesch said. “It caters to the older generation with an automatic feed of news that relates to older generations and a number of features tailored to the way people in that generation would interact
"I can’t really comment on your family dynamics,” said Brandee Barker, a Facebook spokeswoman. “But I can say that more than 50 percent of Facebook users are outside of college now. As our original demographic gets older, we want to be able to include their social networks.”
I checked my Profile. My daughter was now my friend. Well, sort of. She had set her privacy settings to grant me only bare-bones access to her profile.

She also sent a message: “stop worrying you’ll end up writing a young adult novel in an empty apartment because even some extremely old creepsters write real novels”
“I’m glad we’re friends,” I wrote.
“oh thank god I was starting to worry,” she wrote.



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