Margie White lives in Estherville, Iowa – four hours away from her six grandchildren – but that hasn’t stopped her from enjoying her grandson’s latest concert or laughing at all the kids’ antics. How does Margie stay connected to her grandchildren over such a distance? The answer is free, fast and fun: Facebook! Margie says, “When my son and oldest grandson showed me how to sign in and set up an account, I was skeptical.” But today, she readily admits, “I love Facebook!”
Though Margie is now a seasoned Facebook veteran, she faced some challenges at first. “I have two grandsons who became embarrassed about some of my responses,” she says.
Understanding the unspoken rules of Facebook can be difficult. But by avoiding the following Facebook faux pas, you too will be equipped to build relationships with your grandchildren online.
Faux Pas #1: The Constant Commenter
Do you comment on every status update, picture or video your grandchild posts? A heap of comments may be intended to show you’re paying attention. However, in Facebook culture that says, “Hey, I have nothing better to do.” Your grandkids may be embarrassed when their friends ask, “Why does your grandmother always comment on everything?”
Tip: Set a Speed Limit
Limit yourself. Save most comments for special times like birthdays and Christmas. Your Facebook comments will be special because of their rarity.
Faux Pas #2: The virtual smooch
If you catch yourself writing anything along the lines of “You’re so adorable. I’ll give you kisses and hugs all day,” STOP. Making sentimental moments public is not the best way to have rapport with your grandchild.
Tip: Look Before You Leap
Reread everything before you post it. If in doubt, don’t post. Or, if you must, send it in a private message.
Faux Pas #3: The Embarrassing Memory Goes Viral
You probably have lots of stories about your grandchildren. Remember when little Susie ran out of the house totally naked, making it all the way down the block before Mom caught her? While you may cherish these stories, they probably aren’t things your grandchild wants the whole world (or their secret crush) to know.
Tip: Use That Ammo Elsewhere
Save the embarrassing stories for face-to-face times, like holidays and birthday parties. It’s more fun to share the laughs then anyway! Your grandchildren may roll their eyes, but you can remind them to be happy you didn’t post it on Facebook.
Though Facebook can be confusing at first, its benefits can’t be beat: getting to see pictures, offer advice, stay connected and build relationships. As for Margie, she continues to use Facebook to make meaningful connections online. “It has enhanced my life like nothing before.”
Heidi Jusczak is currently a senior writing major at Northwestern College in St. Paul. Here’s her Facebook page.