A Facebook SOS From My Mother

For some, the site is still new.

July 1, 2014
Facebook and my Mother

My mom joined Facebook in January of this year. It was a bit of a shock to get a friend request from someone who is much more than a friend to me. When I accepted her FB request, I noticed that she already had 8 friends. I quickly typed up a "welcome to Facebook" post on her wall. Having been on Facebook since 2004, I knew that my mom was going to go through the massive FB learning curve that a lot of us take for granted. Facebook has gone through so many UX iterations, privacy updates, and currently includes more than 1.25 billion users. My mom was going through a process of discovery with the site. Learning the lingo, functionality, social norms, and various aspects of the site. It makes for an interesting experience. She has taught me so much about technology, but social media is my thing. I make my living teaching social media, digital identity development, and strategic communications to a variety of clients. Unsurprisingly, my mom became one of my clients...she didn't know it of course, but there was no way that I would not offer her 24/7 support should she need it.

I had a twenty minute phone conversation with my mom this week. The call was prompted by a status update that she posted: "Stop all facebook notifications to my cell." When I read her FB status, I sent her a text message asking if she was getting a text message every time one of her Facebook friends engaged with her on the site. Apparently, and I don't know if this is a default setting for new users, but somehow, text message updates were active on my mom's account.

I learned quite a bit from that phone call. The settings button on the top right of the Facebook web interface is ridiculously difficult to see. The lack of contrast on the button is appalling. My mom told me that she hadn't even thought to click on the buttons on the top right because they were "so dim." Additionally, I was quite annoyed with the fact that Facebook has really gone to great lengths to blast site content at their users. My mom is a new user and while she may have inadvertently activated text alerts, it should be much easier for people to turn it off.

My favorite part of the call was when my mom asked if I could help her with an additional Facebook issue. She wanted to know how to unfriend someone. Already understanding that un-friending someone might cause some tension, she asked if those that she culled would get a notification. I reassured her that un-friending is a mostly-silent action. We had a lot of laughs about Facebook, especially when I told her that Facebook probably wasn't monitoring her status updates / cries for tech support.

Facebook has evaporated traditional interpersonal hierarchies/boundaries. My mom is in my social media mix along with colleagues, friends, other family members, clients, and a variety of professional/personal contacts. It's been amazing to watch as my mother becomes more fluent with Facebook. Her experience is such a testament to the fact that we often take our communications platforms for granted. What has been a decade of experience for many of us is still a shiny, brand new site for my mom (and for a lot of other people).


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