When Mom or Dad Asks To Be a Facebook 'Friend'

Matt, 17, and Bob Florian both use Facebook, and Bob Florian knew that his son might have doubts about becoming his Facebook friend.
Matt, 17, and Bob Florian both use Facebook, and Bob Florian knew that his son might have doubts about becoming his Facebook friend. (By Susan Biddle -- The Washington Post)
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By Lori Aratani
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, March 9, 2008

When Matt Florian signed onto his Facebook account recently to check the status of his 400-plus friends, he had a friend request.

It was from his dad.

The junior at Sherwood High School in Montgomery County didn't panic. No. He simply took a deep breath and pondered his options.

He could accept it. He could ignore it. He could accept it, but limit the parts of his Facebook profile his dad could see. He pondered more. What were the social implications of "friending" your folks?

Across the country, Facebook users are contemplating similar questions when they log onto their accounts. More and more moms and dads are signing onto Facebook to keep up with their offspring. Not only are they friending (or attempting to friend) their sons and daughters, they're friending their sons' and daughters' friends.

Some, like Matt, take the requests in stride. He ultimately friended his dad. Others are less sanguine, voicing their dismay via online groups that decry parental intrusion and offer tips on how to screen out mom and dad. ("Just go onto their computers and delete their accounts." "Just don't add them as a friend or any1 that is a co-worker with ur parents duh.") Even parenting experts are getting involved, offering their own tips on proper Facebook etiquette.

"I do not know if this has happened to anybody, but this morning I log on to Facebook and I have a new friend request!" wrote 19-year-old Mike Yeamans, a sophomore at James Madison University, on one of several "No Parents on Facebook" groups that have popped up on the site. "I am excited to make a new friend so I click on the link. I could not believe what I saw. My father! This is an outrage!"

When Facebook was launched by Mark Zuckerberg in 2004, it was designed as a way for college students to connect with each other. Users created a personal page and were able to accept or send out electronic "friend" requests for people to be included in their networks. People who were "friends" were able to keep tabs on people in their network, send messages and even connect with friends of friends. It was like an exclusive private club, since it was open only to those with certain e-mail addresses.

But as Facebook's popularity soared, its founders sought to expand its audience. In 2005, it allowed high school students to sign on. But it was the 2006 decision to open it up to the general public that drew howls from its original audience -- and opened the door for the parental invasion.

In protest, several "abolish parent" groups have sprung up on the site.

Yeamans and a few of his friends started "What Happens in College Stays in College: Keep Parents Off Facebook!" in 2007. They meant it partly as a joke but were stunned when more than 500 people signed on, each with a tale of parental intrusion.

"My mom joined facebook when they first made it public and is mad i won't approve her friend request!" wrote one indignant student.


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