This was published in The South Asian Times on July 18th, 2009.
If you know who Amy Winehouse or Ne-Yo is, you probably have a FB profile. If you were on Orkut or MySpace in your past life, you probably have a FB profile. If you are a toddler's mom, a professional dog walker, a Sanskrit tutor or anyone under 40 years of age, you probably have a FB profile.
Being on FB went from being a fad to an obsession and now comfortably rests in our lives as a necessity. Some of us are torn between FB and Twitter but FB takes the cake.
Here's the twist. The cat is out of the bag and everyone has heard how fun it is, including our parents. If you are in your teens or slightly older and still live at home, your mom has definitely heard from her book club or from the langar at gurudwara or her day out at the beauty salon that it's the perfect spy machine. Your dad has heard it too from his colleagues or his financial analyst or his property broker that it is a great networking tool. So boom they decide to get a piece of the pie and the first thing they do is to ask YOU to help create their profile. Getting chills even hearing about it, you do everything in your power to dodge their request until they give up on you and get an older, nicer and more supportive sibling/cousin to help out.
And there, your worst nightmare has taken shape. It begins to take form as mom and dad add every uncle and aunty in their inner and extended social circles and absolutely shock you by having numerous legit people as friends on day two of their profile going live. Of course you get the first friend request but ignore it, while immediately thinking of strategies to emerge unharmed from the situation. Soon some unsuspecting cousins get trapped and before you know it, you are the only one NOT on their friend list. Mom and dad get super excited about their new online life and talk incessantly about it at dinner table or at breakfast, giving you a massive headache and possibly an eating disorder. Casually, they remind you time and again and you know you can only use the "i'm really busy with my assignments and haven't logged onto FB" a certain number of times before they start waggling their left eyebrow. It's only a matter of time before they make you do it at gun point and then may god bless you. Don't even try to add them to your 'limited profile' list where they can't see any updates or pictures because they will figure it out from the other aunties who've been victims of it.
The scenario is slightly different if you're in your 20s or 30s and live away from home. You have an unending list of friends and co-workers and possibly romantic prospects on your FB. You update statuses a few times a day and post pictures from all your official and social gatherings and night outs. Perhaps you won't mind having mom as your friend. Having dad as a friend might be pushing it a little since every 2 out of 3 pictures you post might seem questionable or possibly objectionable to him. Even if he is a cool dad, you want to be respectful and not worry about using slangs accidentally. With mom alone, it can still get tricky. Imagine your status being "off to a happy hour with office gang" and her immediately replying "beta don't drink too much and go home early. i'll call at 7. enjoy". Any guesses who's gonna be dogged all throughout the happy hour?
If you're in your 40s, there's a very dim chance that your parents will ever join FB. You would actually love it if they did. In fact, you will be at the other end of the spectrum. All the little ones in your family think of you as their favorite elder cousin or favorite uncle/aunt and you love fact that you have easy access to their online lives. And you've promised them that you won't judge them.
Lastly, if you are the parents of teens, you might have the purest intentions of genuinely befriending your kids online, being involved in all aspects of their lives and not spying at all but good luck convincing them. Give them another 10 years and they'll understand.
I guess that's how the circle of life works in the FB world. I'll leave you with an interesting statistic. 30% of people on FB are between the ages of 35-65.