Oh for the good old days when the telephone was the main means of communication with our grown children. What we said to them was between them and us--and if we slipped and said something untoward, we could apologize there and then or by calling them back later.
Now, many of us learn what our kids are up to by checking in on their Facebook page (if they've allowed us to be friended by them), signing up for their Twitter account (we don't need their permission), or peeping in on their Instagram or Pinterest postings. (see chart below for our "social media usage" growth rates.) We can also use those sites to interact just as we would with a phone call, only now everything we "say" is public--and potentially embarrassing or worse.
Here's a case in point from a Philip Galanes Social Q's column in the New York Times.
I am a college student and an aspiring fashion designer. Recently, I started a fashion blog to draw attention to my work and share ideas about what people are wearing. My problem: The first (and sometimes only) people to comment on my blog posts are my father and mother. “We’re so proud of you, honey!” “Good job, Susie-Q!” They make me feel like an 8-year-old. I told them nicely that I would prefer they not comment on my posts, which only hurt their feelings. Was I wrong?
Galanes is the most understanding of responders. He understand us as well as them. What he told Susie-Qs parents holds true for responses on a Facebook page as well as other sites.
"Ah, what puts a spring in my step like falling on the youthful side of a generation gap? I feel your pain, Susie-Q. But your parents are only trying to be supportive. (In their hearts, they would probably like nothing more than for you to drop out of fashion school and take a job at Goldman Sachs, so you could pay your own rent and therapy bills.) Go easy on them.
What they don’t understand is that your blog is a newfangled extension of the workplace. It’s your cyber-office and shouldn’t feel like a preschool T-ball game. “Go, Susie!” So, explain it to them. They would never bust into your boss’s office to complain about a middling performance review. Say: “I’d love to hear your feedback over dinner or e-mail. But I want my blog to be professional, and that means no parental cheerleading.” They’ll knock it off. They grow up so fast, if we let them."
Amen. We may be etiquettely challenged, but an August 2013 Pew Internet & American Life Project survey shows we (the parents of grown children) are growing are using social media in increasing numbers. Here's Pew's latest chart--note that we in the plus-50 groups are totally with it (or whatever the appropriate social media terminology for "with it" is.)