I started using Facebook somewhere around middle school. At the time when I was setting up my account, I remember being surprised by how many fields it asked me to fill out and how many questions about me I had to answer before actually starting to use it. All the other platforms I used required no more than three things, login, password, and profile picture. Yet, Facebook wanted to know my gender, my birthday, where I go to school, who I date. So I went with it and provided the personal details I was asked for. And after a few weeks of using the website, it was no longer weird to share much about yourself on your personal profile, it was like creating a story of my life and it was quite enjoyable.
During the first few months, Facebook was very fun and at the same time very normal experience for me and my friends. It was like another extension to our communication in person along with other social media we were using. In a way, Facebook was our way of documenting things, events, and moments that seemed meaningful to be able to go back to them sometime. Perhaps more importantly, Facebook was our way of informing others about who our friends and crushes were, what group we belonged to, and whom do you want to be associated with. I remember having a nervous chill when posting a picture with someone I just started dating because it meant announcing to everyone in our social circles that we are together now and more importantly testing whether this person you are dating sees it the same as you do. The nervous chill changed into enormous excitement when you get notified that your date likes and comments the picture because this means that yes, you are on the same page. In short, Facebook has become just another extension of my vivid social life and I was totally enjoying it.
During this time, I was so absorbed with my own social life and that of my friend circle that I barely noticed anything else that was going on Facebook. I scrawled down the local news reports, any hot topic discussions, anything that did not relate to me or my friends. My parents have always been on my friend list but they did their own thing and I rarely saw their activity on my news feed. Nor did they intervene in any way with anything I was doing there. Although I am sure that they watched all the picture and updates that related to me pretty closely, they were careful not to like or comment anything. In a way, it was like hanging out with friends at my house while parents were in. They let us do almost everything we wanted without getting involved or showing that they are aware of what we are up. I am sure they watched us closely but they also were cool enough to let us do our own thing without getting involved. And so, I never felt uncomfortable or awkward living my social life on Facebook.
Then, over the course of just one week, something happened that has dramatically affected my comfort with using Facebook. You might think that there was a cyberbullying incident involved or a creepy stalker who has learned too much about me from what I post. But no, the person who has shaken my Facebook life was someone I truly appreciate, someone who had genuinely good intentions when it comes to me. It was my grandmother. When I accepted her friend request little did I know that she would change the way I use Facebook forever. But it did and my Facebook profile stopped being a place where I socialize and have fun with my friends.
All because my grandmother started excessively commenting and liking every post I was tagged in. Sometimes, she would confuse the comments section with private messages and ask me something about my grades or my sister that does not belong on the public profile. Whenever there was a good picture of me and my friends, she would repost and my friends would suspiciously ask me about it. Further, my grandmother would tag my aunts and uncles in the comments below my friends’ posts where I was tagged to make sure they too know what I was up to. As a result, in a very short period of time, I became very self-conscious about using Facebook and started to carefully consider every comment and picture I post, not to attract too much attention to my online persona.
Although I know that my grandmother never intended to make me feel uncomfortable, she was merely trying to become closer to me using the means of communication and I rely on most, her comments and likes served as a reminder that Facebook was a much wider social space that includes many more people than just my friends who have every right to watch and intervene with everything that happens to be there. Constant reminders that everyone is watching that came from my grandmother have turned Facebook into an awkward dinner party with my friends, extended family members, neighbors, former classmates, and first professional contacts sitting at the same table and trying to have a conversation. Suddenly, it did not feel right to have so much of my social life displayed on my Facebook page and I gradually stopped doing it. At that time it felt like something was taken away from me. However, today, I realize that it was a valuable lesson about the importance of keeping my life private that I was lucky to learn early enough.