Dealing With Family On Social Media
Dad’s tweeting, Mum’s "liking" and your brother's doing it all. Here’s how to make life less #awkward.
“You can choose your friends,” so the saying goes, “but you can’t choose your family.” Sadly, this is no longer quite true. We live in an age where your family now wants to be your friends. Specifically, they want to be your friends on the internet, sharing in your LOLs, nosing through your photo streams and crashing into your timeline to reminisce about that time you ran around the garden with a potty on your head.
It’s cruel, but the reality is they are riding roughshod over the online image you have spent years carefully curating and filtering. Don’t pretend that you haven’t experienced the sudden cold fear that comes with clicking on a Twitter notification you assumed was going to be an appreciation of your slightly off-colour gag about Ms Kim Kardashian’s latest bathroom mirror selfie, only to discover that your dad has set up his own profile. And worse, he’s retweeting your Kardashian gag. To the rest of your family. Who are all starting to follow you too, silently but inexorably, like a herd of zombies in a horror film. Dear God. They are even using emojis.
Relax. Just as there are different types of social networking family members, there are different ways of dealing with them. Follow this simple guide and with any luck you’ll be able to manage this very modern problem without having to offend/ mute any of your nearest and dearest.
LOVEBOMBING FACEBOOK MUM
Your mum loves you. She has never given you reason to doubt this for one second. Still, just to be on the safe side, she has also created a Facebook account dedicated to reminding the world just how deep this affection runs.
She doesn’t know the meaning of “over share”. Nude childhood photos can be cute, but not when they’re of you aged 12. Recently, she’s been posting a lot of “inspirational” parenting quotes in sans serif caps. Last week it was: I AM A PARENT WHO IS NOT JUST PROUD OF ONE OF MY KIDS BUT ALL OF THEM. HIT LIKE AND SHARE IF YOUR (sic) PROUD OF ALL OF YOUR CHILDREN; this week it’s: IF A CHILD CAN’T LEARN THE WAY WE TEACH, MAYBE WE SHOULD TEACH THE WAY WE LEARN. Which is fair enough, apart from the fact it makes you sound as if you’re an eight year old with educational difficulties rather than somebody in their thirties with a job and a mortgage and a reputation to uphold.
Once you recognise that your mum is just using Facebook as a release valve for her maternal instinct then this becomes a lot easier to deal with. She just wants to feel mumsy. So maybe just call her a bit more often. Tell her that you love her. Take her out for lunch. Give her so much filial affection that she ends up wanting just a bit of peace and quiet.
UNSTABLE TWITTER DAD
His avatar is Sir Michael Caine’s character from Zulu, he RTs everything Mr Jeremy Clarkson posts and when you check out who he’s following, you discover a disproportionate number of Victoria’s Secret models, plus the Airfix Twitter account. He only signed up last week but he’s already been blocked by his local politician for abusive language relating to some potholes after he got stuck into his home-brew. Worse, he’s taken to hijacking the conversations you’ve been trying to have with minor Twitter aristocracy, barging in with the dreaded words “I’m his dad”, which he will then repeat every 10 minutes until somebody either responds or blocks him or you. Spoiler: they never respond.
You were hoping that he’d get frustrated by the 140 character limit and quickly end up drifting away but the resourceful old boy has invented an insane shorthand that’s harder to decipher than Linear B. Deep down, part of you is jealous at his total lack of self-consciousness, but you’re also annoyed that he keeps spamming you with Game of War requests because he’s evidently got an unsavoury thing for Ms Kate Upton bouncing on horseback.
A simple distraction technique. Introduce him to the internet’s bottomless supply of online quizzes. Because if there’s one thing dads love, it’s quizzes. Look, Dad! MentalFloss.com
SILVER SURFER GONE ROGUE
You have to accept that this is probably your fault. You bought your gran that cheapo desktop and you wrote out longhand instructions so she could download cross-stitch patterns. Only now she’s posting on Facebook from an account she’s managed to create, but her current status is “Royal wedding crockery for sale in Leeds area please” along with her bank details. Which is ill-advised on a number of levels. Your mates are friending her because they think it’s cute but if she keeps posting webcam pics of her own face looking confused she’s going to end up as a cruel gif on BuzzFeed. Act now before she gives your inheritance to a nice “Nigerian prince” with cash-flow issues.
Your only option is to convince her to unplug the computer immediately. Try telling her that running a computer voids her winter fuel allowance. She’ll never touch it again.
CONSPIRACY THEORY COUSIN
He’s the guy who sports head-to-toe camo at weekends and keeps demanding that you share links to his deranged blog about the physical properties of jet fuel and steel beams. His status updates are becoming so alarming you’re wondering if his account has been hacked by someone who isn’t very well. On more than one occasion he has dropped heavy hints that he had something to do with WikiLeaks, he calls all your friends “sheeple” when aggressively responding to their comments on your feed, and his online bio states that he is a “cyber vigilante” although you know for a fact he works for a well-known coffee chain.
Use his paranoia against him by quietly suggesting you think it’s safer for both of you to take your comms completely “off grid”. He’ll love that. Then just block him.
NEW AGE ONLINE DATING AUNT
She is perennially single. She believes in the healing properties of crystals. These facts may or may not be directly related. In any case, there is not one detail of her ongoing “spirit quest” to locate a “star lover” – ideally within her postal code – that you are not now privy to. She once spent six months trying to find Wiccan men on Grindr “by mistake”. Through her social media over sharing, you have come to observe an established routine. Firstly, she will make reference to the transit of Venus in her Facebook status. Secondly, she will hit her local bar. Thirdly, the next morning, she will have posted a dozen blurry shots of her and a nervous-looking young-to-middle-aged man along with the declaration that she is “in a relationship”. Finally – inevitably – the break-up, announced in a breathless grammatically lax 3,000-word diatribe of a status update, peppered with references to “geopathic stress”. Aaaaand repeat.
Tell her that what she needs is a good old-fashioned spiritual cleanse. In a remote sweat lodge. With no Wi-Fi. Or Sauvignon Blanc.
HORNY MILLENNIAL YOUNGER BROTHER
This is your end-level boss: very difficult to beat. He exists across every conceivable social media platform and he’s as annoying as a pop-up ad you can’t close down. One day you will notice that he is suddenly “friends” with every photogenic woman you know on Facebook and pestering them to add him on Snapchat. As CEO of his own “venture”, he demands to know why you haven’t endorsed him for “entrepreneurship” on LinkedIn – even though he’s currently re-sitting his final year at high school. Still, he manages to project a fairly convincing Rich Kid of Instagram lifestyle by colour-photocopying a wad of bank notes and posing shirtless with the (empty) bottle of Snow Queen Vodka you now regret buying him for his birthday.
Catfish him. Get him to send some “incriminating” pics and then threaten him with blackmail should he ever appear on a single one of your timelines again. Failing that, Mum has also got a picture of him cavorting around the garden, naked, with a potty on his head. It was only last week.
Illustrations by Mr Giordano Poloni