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How to handle a Facebook 'friend request' from your folks

Social media is meant to connect friends. But how do you handle a ‘friend request’ from mom, dad, or an uncle you met at a wedding?

sex and relationships Updated: Jan 15, 2015 14:12 IST
Nishtha Juneja
Nishtha Juneja
Hindustan Times
friend request

Like any other 20-something couple, Neha and Rahul (names changed on request) hang out together, go for movies, and often sit for hours at coffee shops; and they post photos of themselves on social media platforms doing all of the above. It was all well and good until Rahul’s father –– who happens to be on his friends’ list –– saw a photo of them together on Facebook.

“I never imagined that a seemingly innocuous picture could cause such drama,” says Rahul, adding, “Soon, my relatives and family wanted to know who the girl was, even what her religion is. My mom got a call from my sister-in-law, to tell me to take the picture down.”

Fortunately, for Rahul, things turned out alright. Their relationship has had no obstacles since; even the picture continues to be on social media. Yet, for many youngsters, the increasing reach of social media has created a common cause for concern –– having parents, and often far-flung relatives – on your list. We address some of the most common issues.

Relationship status
A general trend among teenagers, 20-something college-goers and some young professionals, is that they do not want to reveal their current love interest or relationship status to their parents. It’s not new, of course. Earlier, people were trying to avoid being spotted in public, then they were hiding their cell phones; now, they are wary of what their parents can see on Facebook. “Once, I put a picture of my girlfriend and me on Facebook. One of my relatives downloaded the picture and sent it to my dad. Nowhere had I mentioned that I was dating her, but my family assumed I was romantically involved with her. Since then, I have blocked my parents and relatives,” says sports writer Rajarshi Majumdar.

However, Rajesh Santhanam, teacher and counsellor, feels that youngsters’ desire to hide or share details of their lives, depends on the rapport they share with their parents. “What matters the most is the kind of equation one shares with parents. If it is an open and understanding equation, then they might even appreciate your announcement of a new relationship. If not, you’re more likely to hide things,” says Santhanam.

To add or not to addlmagine a scenario where you want to post photos from a house party –– or are pretty sure that someone else will post them, and you will be tagged. However, you’re worried because you know that your mother is also on the particular platform. In hindsight, you may be wondering if you should have added her in the first place. But how do you go about deciding whether to not add family members at all, or keep them on restricted profiles? And if you don’t add them, is it rude?

Priyam Saha, a fashion writer, has a simple logic: “My dad tried to add me on Facebook; I kept it pending, then blocked him. I explained to him that I can’t take him out with me when I go drinking with my friends, so I can’t add him to my friends list either.”

Censorship of thought
The concept of social media is to be able to say what you feel or think. At times, thinking of what your relatives would say can force you to censor yourself; and, at other times, the censorship can come from others. Aishwarya Das Pattnaik, who works with an NGO, has always been vocal in expressing her views on social discrimination and stereotypes. When she posted a status message criticising society for being judgemental about her weight, she gained some support, but a lot of her close relatives had a problem with it.

“One relative called my post cheap, ” she says. Often, parents and relatives have opposing views on certain topics. Some, like Aishwarya, don’t succumb to the pressure, but some might remove such a status. But, there are some parents who are fine with their kids posting what they like. One such case is of Karan Mehta, a freelance designer. “My parents are on Facebook, and don’t have any objection about the content I share on Facebook. More so, they like and comment on most of my posts and photos.”

First Published: Jan 15, 2015 14:05 IST