Do your parents Facebook or Twitter?

I found the following 30-sec Verizon commercial highly amusing:

Parents on Facebook and Twitter – it’s quite a predicament.

When Facebook first launched in 2004, it was an online social network strictly for college students to connect and keep tabs on each other. A private club of sorts for the college crowd. Once it’s popularity sky-rocketed though, that’s when Facebook started opening its doors: First to high schools students in 2005 (which drew protests from users) and then to the general public (which drew bigger, unhappier protests). Nonetheless, this expansion continued and nothing really affected the typical college user’s experience so the Facebook community continued happily on its way.

… That is until friend requests from Moms and Dads started appearing in user accounts.

Then Facebook users everywhere just scratched their heads (or yelled into a pillow) and debated on what to do:

Option A) Accept and give your parents a window into your personal/social life complete with pictures, comments and updates on what you’ve been up to on Saturday nights.

Option B) Decline and face persistent badgering on why you don’t want to be friends with your parents… do you have something to hide? Are they an embarrassment? Why don’t you want to keep in touch while you’re away from home?

Option C) Ignore and face the same consequences as Option B above.

And really, this is not just an issue that plagues college or high school students anymore. Facebook users in their 20s-30s (maybe even 40s) face similar scenarios as the Facebook community demographic begins to expand and include older people interested in exploring these new online fads – aunts, great uncles, grandmas, even your parents’ closest friends start sending you friend requests.

Quantcast reports that usage in the past six months reflects that for Facebook users:

46% are between the ages of 18-34

20% are between the ages of 35-49

13% who are 50+

For Twitter users, stats show:

43% are between the ages of 18-34

29% are between the ages of 35-49

18% who are 50+

While Quantcast prefaces that these demographics are estimates, there’s a trend implied that a slightly larger population of older people tweet more than they facebook. Interesting to note, yet not surprising given that Twitter is so much simpler and has the primary function as a micro-blogging source. Compared to this, Facebook has an overwhelming amount of functionalities.

But back to the issue at hand. The Onion parodied this “parents on social networks” phenomenon with an over-the-top (albeit fictional) interview with an “e-Mom” named Gloria Bianco who adamantly pushes Facebook as a useful tool for stalking your child when they’re away at college. She even proposed creating an alias account on Twitter so that you could tweet to your child discreetly without them knowing and have them respond to you. Just make sure to use mis-spellings and improper grammar in tweets.

In the real world, a website called: “Oh Crap. My Parents Joined Facebook.” turns parents’ embarrassing social networking faux-pas into hilarious gems for the web public to enjoy. Their tagline? “Congratulations! Your parents just joined Facebook. Your life is officially over.” See the snippet below for what the site has to offer. It’s too precious for me not to share:

And I’m also one that has faced this problem. I logged in to my account one day and saw that my Dad had unexpectedly friended me. There was a period of 3 days where I just let his request hang, but eventually I opted for option A and accepted his request – after which I immediately put stringent privacy measures in place so that he only had access to the bare bones of my account. (Actually from his perspective, I probably appeared as quite a loner on Facebook since my wall posts, pictures and even friend list was non-existent to him.) After a couple times of checking up on my Dad’s profile, I realized he hadn’t done much work in terms of updating or making connections… actually I was convinced he hadn’t touched it at all since friending me. Next time we talked on the phone, I mentioned that perhaps his account could use some sprucing up to which he replied: “Oh? I completely forgot. Well I just wanted to see what it was about, but I don’t get what all the fuss is.”

And all my efforts were for naught.

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