By Tom Lowrey, Senior Services Education Assistant.
Your children and grandchildren love you. They think it’s really cool that you’re on Facebook, and they truly look forward to hearing from you… Usually. But it’s important that you not wear out your welcome!
“If you’re not familiar with Facebook, it’s really a different social scene,” says Trena Winans-Bagnall, Senior Services’ Education and Outreach Director, who has taught Facebook classes at Midland area senior centers. “It has its own unspoken rules that usually people don’t pick up right away, and that’s when they’ll tend to drive their children or grandchildren crazy.”
First of all, she suggests that if you and your spouse both want to join the Facebook universe, do it individually, not as a couple. Problems can occur. For example, if Harold and Betty use only one account together, they can only put one of their names on the account, so if Harold’s name is on the account, and Betty types something cute and flowery to her granddaughter, it will look like it’s from Harold. Awkward! It’s much better to have your own profile.
Young Facebook users may be very active: they post a lot of pictures, videos, and comments. If grandparents “like” or write comments on everything their family members post, the grandchildren will have to wade through tons of individual messages, and may end up wishing that Grandma and Grandpa would stop hovering so much. “Don’t get me wrong,” says Trena. “Many family members love to have their parents and grandparents on Facebook. They want you to see their photos. They want you to see what’s going on in their lives and vice versa. It’s just that you don’t want to overwhelm them. There’s a middle ground. Do comment on some of the things they post, but try to avoid commenting on everything they do!”
Trena compares it to chaperoning your granddaughter’s high school dance. You want to say “hi” to her and her friends, comment on her pretty dress, and be available for her. You don’t want to follow her around, insert yourself into her conversations, try to act cool, or embarrass her in any other way. The same general rules should apply to your Facebook interactions.
Comments and posts you make on your “Status,” their “Wall,” “Timeline” or most other places in Facebook may be seen by everyone she knows. If you’re upset with your grandchild about something, those aren’t the places to call them out on it. Instead, Facebook has a “message” function that works like email and is a much more appropriate method to post private comments. Certainly fight the impulse to post her naked baby photo, or anything else that’s embarrassing!
Seek that middle ground, says Trena, between not enough and too much when it comes to Facebook. It’s perfectly okay to “lurk”, or just follow what other people do at first. You don’t necessarily have to post things yourself until you feel ready and have a feel for how comfort-able different family members are interacting with you on social media.