The iPhone goes vrrrrrrrrrr. I pick it up, and see that my wife Brandy has shared a picture: a bowl filled with colorful grilled vegetables and chopped chicken. “Look how beautiful my lunch is,” she writes. I would click the like button, but I can’t. It’s not on Facebook. She’s not on Facebook.
I am my wife’s Facebook.
Brandy has no idea just how perfect her correspondence is for Facebook. As I scroll through our text history, there are recipes, comments about topical news stories, a video of my oldest son Jackson telling a joke and pictures with funny captions (image: a small Domino’s pizza that resembles a clock missing everything between 12 o’clock to 8 o’clock; caption: “F#@$ fitness.”)
Her media is not social. She has a few individual Facebooks going with a few friends, but that’s it. Conversely, I’m quite engaged in social media, and often include my kids and family in my posts. This is the case for most parents. I just scrolled through my Facebook newsfeed, and more than 80 percent of the items posted by parents related to their kids or family.
When viewed as a mom and a dad, Brandy and I don’t jive with current trends. Moms dominate social media and do far more to test the boundaries of over-sharing. Ninety percent of moms have visited Facebook in the past 30 days. According to a recent survey by the U.K. Department of Health, 40 percent of people say moms-to-be share waaaaaaay too many pregnancy details on social media. (One in five has spotted a pregnancy test on their Facebook wall.) If you want to see just how bad the over-sharing can get, check out the hilarious—and cringe-inducing—STFU, Parents.
Dads are less engaged: 20 percent say they post family-related photos “a few times a year.” One third rarely or never “like” their partner’s photos of their own kids. Only five percent will seek out a website or blog for parenting advice. (By comparison, one in three bloggers is a mom.)
I inform Brandy that she’s unknowingly created her own personal Facebook with me. (I tell her we should call it MySpace, because it really is just HerSpace.) I ask why she only shares thoughts, recipes and pictures one-on-one. “I can control the message,” Brandy says, comparing her strategy to that of a celebrity publicist. “I don’t want everything getting out there. Some people will think what I’m sharing is fun or interesting, but others will think it’s dumb or boring or just won’t care.”
“So you’re avoiding being judged?” I say.
Pause. “Yeah, I guess I am,” she replies.
In a recent Parenting survey, 97 percent of moms admitted to being critical of others. (Which is a statistical way of saying every mom, anywhere, ever.) And Facebook, at its very heart, is a place to judge, be judged and judge other people’s judgments. Let’s not forget that its original incarnation was Facemash, a March Madness-style bracket for picking the hottest girls at Harvard.
And so Brandy and I live a contradiction. She is the “un-social” mom, an endangered creature that lurks in the high grasses of the analog plains, hiding quietly alongside the males. Her mate mingles with the opposite species (scientific classification: likus sharus commentara emoticonicus), an indiscreet group that’s easy to track and hunt: just follow the trail of scattered ROFLs and SMHs. Can she control the message if I’m the Perez Hilton of our private family details? Can we coexist peacefully? Keep in mind that she can't see what I'm posting. That may have saved a couple discussions about what's appropriate to share, and what's not.
A note to all you sympathetic social moms: don’t feel bad that my wife only has one “friend.” That’s how she wants it. Because if she shares a thought or picture and gets a critical comment, she doesn’t type up a response. She waits for the commenter to get home, and tells him face-to-face.