One of the two members of my in-house focus group of longtime Facebook users has discovered my “research-purposes” account. I figured it would never be discovered as long as I only discussed it on this weblog, the one place on the Internet my children would never visit. However, a certain nameless co-parental unit of mine let slip that she saw a “cute” photo of the off-spring on Facebook and within a nanosecond, my goose was cooked. Fortunately, I was discovered by the mature and loving first child who does nothing wrong and whose reflex response to discovering I have a Facebook account was to “friend” me. I responded by reassuring her of my boundless and eternal love for her — but sorry, I was rejecting her as a friend. “You don’t want me showing up as a friend on Facebook,” I said. I think she knew I would respond that way when she invited me, so she scored double points by communicating to me that she didn’t mind me seeing anything on her Facebook page, nor did she mind having me identified as a friend — knowing all the while that I would not be “that dad.”

Note to the 16-year-old. Don’t try this ploy. It won’t work. I will accept your request and start posting on your wall embarrassing stories from your childhood. I am saving this for future leverage.

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Facebook without borders update

It’s been a week since Facebook, the formerly student-only social network, invited the world to join. I thought — and still do — it was a not a bright idea. However, I can certainly understand the pressure founder Mark Zuckerman must have been under to do so from his VC backers. I just think it is the wrong strategy: Marx was correct. Groucho Marx, that is, who turned down membership into the Hollywood Friar’s Club with his famous response: “Please accept my resignation. I don’t care to belong to any club that will have my parents as members.” (Actually, he didn’t say it exactly like that, but you catch my drift.)

In hindsight, Facebook could not have picked a worse nanosecond in history to open up their incredibly popular student-focused social network to adults. Saturation news coverage of evil things adults do to children is not a great context for such a move. No wonder there are nearly 9,000 members of the Facebook group, Facebook, Don’t Let My Parents onto Facebook!!. If I were a student, I’d sign up.

However, since they let me on, I (for research purposes) did sign up. As I anticipated, I am impressed with the service despite not intuitively comprehending some of the metaphors and terms (poke me?).

I have discovered a couple of things that I’d like to pass along to students who may tune in to this post:

1. Know who your friends are (and who their friends are): The floodgates have been opened to those who you need to assume are not who they say they are. Despite the safeguards Facebook builds into its verification process and terms of use, those who want to subvert the system have already figured out how.

2. When you see a camera, imagine it’s your parents: Every time you appear in a photo, indeed every time you see a camera or camera phone in the room you happen to be in, assume a photo of you will show up on Facebook and your name will be tagged on that photo — and your parents will be able to view it. (Scary, but true.)

3. Nothing you do on Facebook is just between you and your friends: Every thing you write on Facebook — or is written by others on your wall — is not just seen by your friends. I know. It seems that way. But believe me, it’s not. And, frankly, this goes for anything you do on the Internet, anywhere — even when you think you are doing it anonymously. Even when it is IMing and you think it will disappear after you log out. Sorry. This is permanent record stuff.

And for parents:

1. Facebook is something good: Trust me. Compared to the other options for activities online — and other sites that offer similar networking features — Facebook is the best.

2. Don’t ask your kids to friend you: However, I predict parental friending may become a standard addendum to future “grounding” disciplinary actions.

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