To befriend or not to befriend (on Facebook)? That is the question.

I was sitting on my couch last night watching tv when I heard my favourite sound: the e-mail alert! If I were in a Tom Hanks movie circa 1998 it might be a more aggressive “You’ve got mail!”, but instead it is just a polite, short, melodic sound that causes me to leap up from my seat and rush to my computer to prove that I have friends. In this particular case, it was a Facebook friend request…. from my dad!

I was suprised, but not as suprised as I was 2 years ago when he friend-requested me the first time. At that time, FB was almost exclusively young people – mostly myspace crossovers and burnt out university students so I respectfully sent my dad an e-mail saying ‘Dad’s aren’t allowed on Facebook”. And I meant it.

But now things have changed. FB is full of old people who, like the CBC and the rest of the mainstream media, are desperate to figure out what this face book is. With this interest, there seems to be an obvious difference in the way that different generations use this “tool”. 16 year olds still want to post pictures of all things stupid and illegal, twenty-somethings want to schedule event, post their vacation pictures and screen potential dates and job candidates (or interviewers, if you’re me). But the old people (sorry thirty/forty/sixty-somethings, I mean you) use it very differently. They want to connect with people they went to camp with in 1985, post pictures of their kids, get mommy coupons, and post as little personal information as they can in fear that big brother is coming to get them (which he probably is).

My FB friend list is rather exclusive – limited to people I actually like/like to stalk, rather than everyone I’ve ever known (if you’re not on it, it is likely because I secretly hate you). But it does include all four of my bosses, babysitting clients and cousins (some more distant than others). These are all people that I respect the opinion of and am reasonably careful not to offend in any major way (“I sure do hate my boss/work/your kid/your mom”). So why then do I care about my dad?

Just before Christmas my cousin “suggested” an uncle as a friend. My immediate reaction was “No Way. That’s like having my parents on FB”. But, if I have already crossed the line of a secret life away from my prying family’s eyes (an aforementioned cousin did spill the beans to the rest of the family when my relationship status changed), then am I just being an agist?

I’ve decided that the only way to handle this is with a list of pros and cons:

Pro: I don’t talk to my parents very often and I would find things out about my parent’s lives
Pro: When my dad reads 6 month old break-up blogs he could check my current FB relationship status instead of sending me condolence e-mails
Pro: I wouldn’t have to e-mail pictures separately to all the old people
Pro: Despite the less human connection, it might allow for a new kind of connection between family members who aren’t always very good at making an effort. After all, FB is great because we are all so lazy.

Con: My dad is already freaked out about the language I use on my blog, what would he think if had access to my pictures,notes, friends, status updates etc about robbing old ladies, smoking crack, and vacationing at nude beaches?
Con: I have to see the relationship status of my parents. Ick
Con: I might lose all reason to ever have a verbal conversation with them again.
Con: What are people going to think when I get posts on my wall from my dad?
Con: Old people always think it is necessary to sign their posts “mom”, “dad”, “uncle joe” even though it is posted beside a mini-pic of them with the name above.
Con: It changes what FB means to me and I am not sure I am ready for that.
Con: It allows for a false sense of relationship between family members that you might not really have a relationship with and you get in trouble with you delete family members from your friend’s list
Con: It ruins my prediction that FB will eventually crash and burn because of all the stupid applications and privacy violations.

And so, I still really have no idea what to do. What do you think, Dad?


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