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'Peach fuzz' photo (c) 2011, Ray_from_LA - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Every Friday my syndicated column appears in a bunch of newspapers in southeastern Ontario. I was on several planes yesterday flying back from speaking in Washington state, so I didn’t get a chance to update the blog! But here’s this week’s, better late than never!

I am my husband’s thirty-fifth friend.

It didn’t have to be that way, but as I’m writing this I’m on a ten day speaking tour in Washington state, and so I was not at home when Keith finally, after four years, broke down and opened a Facebook account. Shortly thereafter, we announced to the world, after nineteen and a half years married, that we were, indeed, in a relationship. Both our daughters acknowledged that they liked that.

Facebook has completely changed the way my kids and I interact. When it’s dinner time, instead of yelling upstairs, I just bellow at them on Facebook chat. I spy on their friends. I see their likes and dislikes.

The biggest change, though, is that now, whenever anyone in our family says something funny, someone else immediately pipes up, “that would make a great status!”, and we all rush to the computer to be the first to type it in. We don’t just enjoy life in the moment; we think of how we can share it with everyone else. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing.

Nevertheless, epic status updates now dominate people’s conversations. One of the best I saw recently was from one of my teenaged friends, who after weeks of chatting but not updating his wall announced to the world, “Time for a status update! It’s been too long since my last one…” And that was it. That boy knows how to protect his Facebook privacy.

For those who want to be more forthcoming, though, you soon learn that status updates like “going out to the store to pick up Doritos” are lame. Status updates like “eating Doritos on my sister’s bed so she gets all the crumbs” are infinitely better, especially for the repercussions when your sister finally signs in. Posting “I would never give my kids Ben & Jerry’s at ten in the morning because that would mean I’m a bad mother”—insinuating that you did just that—also tends to lead to fifteen friends liking you all at once. It’s an ego boost to go along with the calorie boost.

Of course, Facebook is hardly harmless. One thief was caught because while breaking into someone’s house he stopped to check his notifications on his victims’ computer, and then left himself signed in. So it is not without its risks. I know that Facebook can be scary for many parents, too. What if my kids see bad stuff? What if they get bullied? What if weird people talk to them? But that sort of thing can happen anywhere, and the greatest thing about Facebook is that it’s so easy to spy on them (or, in Facebook terms, stalk them).

And stalking people is really Facebook’s biggest benefit. I found out my brother-in-law was in a relationship on Facebook. When you stalk your kids, you can figure out what’s going on at their school, who they hang out with, and what their friends are really like up close and personal. It’s a treasure trove for meddling parents. Certainly Facebook has become a magnet for bullies, but if you’re there, at least you can talk about it openly and help them to deal with it.

It’s easy to bemoan Facebook, and not just because of the constant updates. I still can’t get my head around spending time on games like Farmville when there are teenagers to spy on. Life is too short to get involved in all of those games. But I have to admit it’s a great way to keep in touch with people, and to keep tabs on young ones. And now my husband can do it with me. He’s such a good friend.

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