The statistics Nate reflected on earlier this week should come as no surprise to those of us in our mid-twenties who have found ourselves, of late, frantically untagging Facebook photos posted by our parents in which we look unspeakably hideous and embarrassing. Yes, it’s inescapable – “old people” are on Facebook now. Related discussion of the generation gap among Facebook users (and reactions from some “old people” themselves!) has been ongoing this week at The XX Factor.
My own Facebook nightmare arrived late in the game… it was barely two months ago that I suggested to my father, jokingly, that he should be on Facebook. My fiancé’s parents are on Facebook, I explained, and it’s adorable! His immediate reaction was begrudging consideration. “I just don’t know what I would use it for.”
Within two hours my dad had posted his first Facebook photo album: Fish I Have Killed, the contents of which are exactly what you’re imagining. Within 24 hours my stepmom had a Facebook account, then my two aunts, then a variety of my parents’ friends and neighbors, all posting on each other’s walls with wild joy and abandon… and intense frequency.
Then came the mortification. Photo albums filled with family pictures of me at my most awkward, worst-dressed, and ill-maintained – all several years old and now at the top of Facebook’s “Photos of Me,” flouting proper chronology and pushing more current, flattering photos down the queue, provoking both my vanity and obsessive-compulsion in one fell swoop! Come ON, Dad!
In fact, the whole thing’s still kind of cute. But it does demonstrate a permeating fact of the social web age: it is becoming less and less realistic to break your public image into facets for each audience, and to hold back artifacts inconsistent with your desired branding. The answer, again, is to stop scrambling for control and start building. Identity is a constructive process, and the only way you can come close to controlling yours is to be the primary purveyor of content about you. Especially now that your Dad and all those fish are on Facebook.
by Liz Caradonna