By Elizabeth Speth
Because of me, 11 million pre-teens, high schoolers and college students have fled Facebook.
I didn’t act alone, but there is social networking blood all over my hands because, for the last three years, young people have been fleeing old people in droves on this platform. They are running from my demographic.
I and my ilk ruined everything. Moms. Dads, Aunts. Grandparents. We knew a good party when we saw it. We ‘liked’ it, we joined, and the party was immediately over.
In a spectacularly self-destructive move, it was my daughter who first talked me into joining. I was an anti-Facebook snob until she set up an account for me one day as I snoozed next to her on the couch. And it was brilliant. A huge time suck, but brilliant. I posted pictures of myself (only the flattering shots), and of my children (when they were behaving and reasonably clean), my meals, my cocktails. I took pictures of the garden, or at least the nice corners of the garden.
I may have shared some cute kitten pictures and videos. I don’t remember.
I thought up witty posts and then checked them repeatedly throughout the day, willing people to LIKE me.
And the whole time I didn’t realize we were hemorrhaging young people. They were dropping like flies. My children were sullen when I posted about them. Furious when I finally figured out how to tag them. They were getting disgusted, and I just didn’t see it. I’m glad none of them ‘poked’ me. I’m sure they would have drawn blood.
And still I just kept blundering along, multiplying my social media sins, knowing not what I did. My friends too. We told cute stories about our children, posted baby pictures, hinted that we still had romance with our spouses, talked about our hot flashes. We asked our kids about what we read on their pages while they glowered at us. What was the problem? We were having fun.
I didn’t realize sending friend requests to all of Leland’s friends was a head-slappingly stupid move until I told him and he slapped his head.
“What were you thinking?” he demanded
So now I’m friends with quite a few of them, because they were too polite to say no, but they’re not there. Not anymore. Their pages are inert, gathering dust, last updated in 2011. Facebook is a ghost town, when it comes to young people.
They, in a migration to rival the infamous Trail of Tears, have sought refuge in places like Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram and some no doubt top-secret locations I will never know.
And until now, I have respected that.
Once I realized the magnitude of the destruction we’d wrought on Facebook, I was horrified, and I vowed I would stay there and give my poor children room to breathe, to enjoy their hard-won, post-exodus privacy. I let my Instagram account wither, and slapped my hand every time it hovered over the Twitter app download button. I wasn’t going to turn my poor offspring and millions of their displaced peers into refugees again.
I was meek, reprimanded, chastised, reformed. Socially contained and completely harmless.
Until I went out to lunch with my college-age son Lyle, his buddy Brent, and my daughter Julia. That was a game-changer. A paradigm shifter.
Now I’m not sorry anymore. The gloves are off. So I can type better.
It started innocently enough. We were chatting, laughing, catching up. We enjoyed our Tower of Onion Rings and Hummus appetizers. The boys had perfect burgers, thick and rare, with piles of thin fries on the side. My lettuce wraps were excellent.
I may have had a martini. I had a designated driver. It was a small martini. The glass wasn’t really even half full, so the second martini sort of made a total of one full drink.
Hey, there was a designated driver there.
On a side note, the martini was perfect. I’m particular about it being cold, and dry, with very good vodka, and the server relayed my instructions to the bartender perfectly. The result was magical.
And then, as the server was clearing our plates. I put my hand on her arm and I said something that didn’t come out the way it was supposed to.
It wasn’t inappropriate. It was meant to be a compliment.
I just switched around two little words, something that could have happened to anyone, and Bam! there is my son typing up a storm on his phone. Thumbs flew for a few seconds, and then he put it down on the table, a satisfied grin on his face.
“What?” I said.
“Nothing,” he answered, taking a drink of his Coke. Smirking into his glass.
Later, when I got home, I got someone who is now in the Witness Protection Program to show me my son’s tweet.
” Mama Speth said ‘Tell the martini the bartenders were great.’ It’s not even 2 pm!’
Well, as it turns out, 55-64 is the fastest-growing age bracket on Twitter. That’s not me yet, but I think I’m going to get a jump on things.