How Facebook Stole My Parents

Photo by Dayne Topkin on Unsplash

People access Facebook an average of 8 times per day.

I can’t remember exactly when I first helped my mother set up her Facebook account but I do remember that we used our dead cat’s name as the password. She was in her fifties then and my brother and I were her first official Facebook friends.

My mother’s initial steps were timid ones, sharing little blurbs about what she did that day: Worked on a new painting and then grocery shopped for dinner tonight. We’re having rosemary lamb. Yummy!

Soon, she discovered long-lost high school friends and started playing Scrabulous with some of them, but most were dubbed cheaters as there was “no way Jacki knows these words she’s using.” Around the time that Scrabulous came back as Lexulous my mother needed more trustworthy opponents so she started playing with strangers.

“This man on Lexulous is hitting on me,” she called and said one day. He wanted to meet her for lunch. We had a laugh and she told my Dad who I imagine rolled his eyes and said little more about it.

As her Lexulous obsession diminished she went back to sharing her life, but sharing it as it was then, not as it is now. She reposted images from the 1950s with poorly designed text overlays such as share if you think we were better Americans back then. I wanted to remind her of all the ways we’re better Americans now. I wanted to remind her of why she didn’t get to go to college, why her dad kicked her out of the house when she brought a black friend home for dinner once during high school, and why my grandmother died too young.

But I didn’t.

From there she progressed to opinions. While President Obama was in office she shared her thoughts on a story claiming that an executive order had just been issued banning The Pledge of Allegiance in U.S. schools. Against my better judgment I commented underneath noting that it simply wasn’t true and pasted links to a few reputable sources. She called me in tears, saying that she didn’t know what this country was turning into anymore.

She also told me that I was online bullying her.

When I spoke to my dad about it he said that there was really nothing we could do since “your mother won’t get off her phone.” He was more prone to books, large tomes on history and politics or spy thrillers by Clive Cussler. At least back then he was.

During visits everything we did was photographed for Facebook. Everything we ate was photographed for Facebook. Mother-daughter time was spent together, side by side by side. Me, my mom, and her phone.

During the 2016 presidential elections after seeing opposing views from friends and family in her newsfeed my mother posted a quote attributed to the Dalai Lama: When you talk, you are only repeating what you already know. But if you listen, you may learn something new. Right after that she unfriended everyone she deemed a ‘loser liberal,’ and so she unfriended me.

I logged into her Facebook account (with the dead cat password) to see what was going on and discovered a new vocabulary: crooked, lyin’, slimeball, slippery, cheatin’, failin’, and crazy. They ran around my mother’s words like Snow White’s seven dwarves, caring for and tending to a drugged mind.

We’re friends again. In real life we always were but after her online bullying statement I never again commented on one of her demagogic posts, no matter what rubbish it contained.

I keep my mouth shut as she supports confederate monuments.

The last time I visited my parents, which wasn’t that long ago, both my mom and dad placed their phones on the restaurant table. She checked Facebook three times before the appetizers arrived and four times during the main course. As we were lingering over the last sips of wine my dad grabbed his phone and tapped on the blue F. I looked at him, dismayed. He shrugged and said, “if you can’t beat them you might as well join them.”