I Unfriended My Mom on Facebook

Basic Rules for Families on Facebook

Facebook Rules for When Your Family is on Facebook

A couple weeks ago, a Facebook friend messaged me this question on Facebook:

Is there or have you heard anything about where to find anything on Facebook etiquette for aging adults/grandparents/parents? My Mom has started FBing and has no boundaries. I’m having a hard time explaining to her it’s not cool to comment on my friend’s-friend’s posts etc. and she is driving my kids crazy. I’ve looked on line about this stuff and can’t even find anything.

I laughed because I feel my friend’s pain.  Social networking is new for everyone, both  kids and adults.  Take my own mom for example.  My mom has been on Facebook for almost nine months.  She started messaging my friends and posting comments on people’s pages unaware of keyword search or privacy settings.

I talked to her.  We argued.  I talked to her again.  I did what any frustrated daughter or son would do.

I De-Friended My Mom on Facebook

The largest growing segment on Facebook is the over 45 and over crowd.  That’s our family on facebook;  my mom, your mom, your grandmother and everyone’s Aunt Betty.  As late to adopters of social media, our older family members are overwhelmed by the ability to connect and learn about high school friends, family, and neighbors.  Just like riding a bike, your family on Facebook is learning, growing, and testing their limits.  On Facebook, everyone has a voice.  Everyone has friends.  Friends make us feel special.  And friends want to hear our opinions, right?

It’s powerful.  It’s exciting.  Sometime it’s too much.

Teaching Facebook Rules to Family Members Without De-Friending

It’s called Netetiquetteand is defined as Internet and social media etiquette.  It’s what my mom and your mom on Facebook need to learn.

Basic Rules for Families on Facebook:

  • Poke with caution. If you have been on Facebook for a while you remember when poking and super-poking was all the rage.  Poking is a way to nudge the user into conversation or just to say, “Hey.”  Poking is not as popular as it once was before but poke with caution.  Sometimes it’s awkard and just plain creepy.
  • Keep your private life private. Your friends will learn–and secretly delight in reading–about your hookups and breakups.  Updating your relationship status on a regular basis not only raises eyebrows but is in poor taste.  When you update your relationship status to “dating” or “married” or to “in a relationship” everyone that is your friend is notified of this change through their Facebook stream and  it is also included in your profile Wall updates..
  • Update your privacy settings frequently. These days it seems like Facebook updates their privacy setting weekly.  Get to know your settings and the amount of access one has to your page and information.  Create lists and control how much access work contacts have versus your close family or friends.  Even simple tools like tagging can be monitored and controlled.
  • Lighten up on the apps. These drive me crazy.  I don’t really want to know that you completed Level 7 on Bejeweled, Quiz Taco, or Smiles application.  Posting too many of these applications and updates to your wall clogs up your friend’s stream and leads to rapid de-friending.
  • T-M-I. There’s a fine line between sharing with your friends and sharing too much with your friends. I won’t make fun of you if you decide to join every Harry Potter group in creation.  Just like in regular conversation, steer clear of controversial topics of sex, religion, and politics.  And please refrain from private messaging or posting to someone’s wall to publicly debate one of the three aforementioned topics.  It can rub people the wrong way.
  • Caution when commenting. Would you call a stranger on the phone?  Refrain from commenting on friends of friends walls.  It sometimes borders on creepy Facebook stalking especially when it comes to the kids.  Your daughter’s friend’s third cousin doesn’t really want you commenting on their prom picture.
  • De-friending is harsh,  but sometimes necessary. Take my word for it as someone who’s been there.  It’s much easier just to change your privacy settings keeping that pesky person from posting on updates or your wall.  With Facebook, people collect long-forgotten acquaintances by the hundreds; you may look petty if you remove someone from your friends list. Privacy settings really can be your best friend.  Less drama and more control, and if you’re caught in the act, just blame it on Facebook.  They’re always screwing up those pesky privacy settings anyway.

After about two weeks of unfriending my mom the second time, I invited my mom to be my friend again on Facebook.  She and I talked again about Facebook rules and etiquette.  I think my mom now knows what’s acceptable in this new and growing space, but it took a lot of phone calls, a couple Facebook tutorials and time..

I de-friended my mom on Facebook (twice), but we’re good now.  I promise.

Posted in

Jessica Miller-Merrell

Learn more about Jessica Miller-Merrell, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, the founder of Workology, a workplace HR resource, and the host of the Workology Podcast. More of her blogs can be found here.

Reader Interactions


  1. Charlie Duff says

    Entertaining but oh-so-true!

    Thank goodness, I don’t have this problem, although my brother does LOVE to overshare…

    When I was at uni and Facebook was very new, everyone was poking everyone, but soon everyone changed their poking behaviour to ‘only those you want to know intimately’ so that cut it down a fair amount.

    Try that one on your Mom.

  2. Karla Campos says

    I told my mom the only reason I would unfriend her is if she posts embarrassing baby pictures and if she starts talking about embarrassing illnesses lol, good to hear you and your mom are FB friends again : )

    • Jessica Miller-Merrell says

      Thanks Karla. It’s always touch and go. . . unfriending my mom taught me that we are all learning on social media and working to navigate and understand the online cultural norms. Appreciate the comment.


  3. victor says

    i only accepted my mom on facebook because i would feel bad denying her. but why the fuck do i want her to be my friend on facebook? maybe she thinks its cool to be friends. i dont want her looking or liking my pictures. its weird. i hate when she sends lame attachments. will play with privacy settings…



Pin It on Pinterest