The Day I Signed my Mother up for MySpace

Alternative title to this post: “Only freaks put pictures of themselves on the Internet”

About two months after I started experimenting with MySpace, I had the grand idea of signing my 61 year old mother up for a profile.  It seemed to make sense…she’s a public health nurse that teaches sexual health and parenting classes at my home county’s high schools.  (Yes, my mom is the SexEd teacher.  Let the horror of that sink in for a moment.  Then multiply it by about a hundred and you have a close approximation of how I feel.)  So, anyway, I thought it might be a good avenue for her to communicate with her students and to push information.

I had her full cooperation in the endeavor.  The problems, however, started right from the beginning.   When we were filling out her profile, she had a hard time understanding why anyone would care what her favorite movies or music was.  I told her, “Just fill it out like you would an online dating profile.”  As soon as I said that, I realized that she’s been married to my father for 39 years and with him for 45, so – fortunately, I guess – she was unfamiliar with the concept of online dating sites.  And that was definitely a conversation that I didn’t want to have.

Picking out a song to put on her profile was also a bit of a problem.  She didn’t want anything that glamorized sex or death. Well, excuse me, but that’s pretty much the point of pop music!  I took a nice MySpace-y picture of her, created a profile background that contained soft colors and looked appropriate for a grandmother and registered her with her high schools.  Then I sent her back to Ohio with the world of MySpace at her fingertips.

I got the first worried e-mail from her approximately 3 hours later. (And it takes two hours to drive from Lexington to my parents’ house.)   Apparently she and my father decided to start cruising the message boards for my old high school.   The posts contained the type of information and slander that used to be confined to passed notes and bathroom wall scribbles.  They also looked at some of the pictures students posted on their profiles.  My parents are far from prudish, but they were quite distressed at what they saw.

Then my mother got a friend request from *gasp* a stranger.   And the person sent it at 3:00am.  I, of course, did not see the big deal, but my mother was very concerned that a mass murder would soon show up at her doorstep.  I checked into it and the stranger was another woman in her 60s who lived in a timezone that rendered a 3:00am request sensical.  That was pretty much the final straw for my mother.  She had me delete her account approximately 60 hours after it was created.

I guess it pays to remember that not everyone is going to be as comfortable putting their business out on the Internet for all to see, and that’s going to be a bit of a stumbling point if you’re trying to get buy-in on these social networking services from certain people.  I don’t think you can chock it up to age.  The alternative title for this post actually comes from my brother, who’s 38 years and gadget obsessed.  I was complementing his daughter on her Eeyore sweatshirt and said that I had mentioned it on my Facebook.  He said that if I wanted, I could post a picture of her in it, but I would have to photoshop out her face because, well, “only freaks put pictures of themselves on the Internet” and “who knows what kinds of weirdos [I am] friends with on the Internet.*”

There’s just a certain “yeah, this is me”  attitude that people either have or develop after some time on the web.  When I first started on the Internet with message boards and blogs, I was very careful to keep myself anonymous.  And then when I first started on MySpace and made the decision to use my real name, I was horrified that anyone would actually find it and think that I was using it to…meet people.  I shouted from the (virtual) rooftops that I was only there as an “anthropological experiment.”  But by the time I had migrated to Facebook, I was e-mailing everyone I knew with a link to my profile.  So I definitely developed the thick skin needed.  I am not sure whether the “digital natives” of Gen Y are just born with it or just get used to it faster than I did.

*After that little speech, I didn’t have the heart to tell him that I had posted pictures of us on my Facebook.  I will.  One day.  Perhaps at Christmas.


One Response

  1. […] so obsessed with signing my mother up for social networking services, especially in light of our disastrous MySpace experiment.  And yet I persist.  Today I found one that she may like….55 Alive, a social networking […]

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