Dear Ann Cannon • I’m at my wit’s end with my grandmother. Online, she feels free to comment/like/share everything that she sees with my name in it. If it was only on stuff that I post, then I’d be fine. But she somehow finds all of the links my friends tag me in, comments I make on other pages, and events I’m going to, and speaks her mind, very often embarrassingly. I know that whatever goes on social media is public, but this still seems to be crossing a line. It’s as if she has no filter on what is appropriate to comment on.
I’m well aware that the intricacies of online etiquette are still being created, and I can’t fault her that much for not knowing the virtual norms of people my age, but I’m not sure how to communicate that to her without completely hurting her feelings. How do I tell my grandma that her invading my conversations is embarrassing and how do I get her to stop?
— Embarrassed Grandson
Dear Grandson • OK. Before I respond to your question, I am going to tell you a true story about a time when I looked like an idiot. Why did I look like an idiot? Because I was an idiot.
This happened when one of my sons was a seventh-grader at Bryant Middle School in Salt Lake City. It was his birthday and I decided I WANTED TO BE THE FUN MOM! So I cooked up a plan to take him breakfast from McDonald’s, as well as a bouquet of happy birthday balloons. You know! When he was at school! Hahahahahahahaha! What 13-year-old boy wouldn’t love that?
So I walked into the hallway during class change, carrying breakfast and balloons, and found my boy standing by his locker with a group of friends. As soon as I saw the expression on his face, I knew I’d made a mistake. A huge mistake. A mistake of epic proportions. I could tell he wished that he’d never been born because if he’d never been born, then I wouldn’t be standing in the hallway of Bryant Middle School with birthday balloons for all the world to see.
But instead of turning around and walking back out of the door, I persisted and joined my son by his locker.
“Surprise!” I said. (It was.) “Happy birthday!” (It wasn’t.)
The reason I tell you this story is to give you some possible insight into your grandmother’s behavior. I suspect commenting on your Facebook page is her way of showing interest in you and your life. She cares! And she wants you to know she cares! She may also want you to think that she’s the Fun Grandma just hanging with you and your friends. Bottom line, though, her online behavior is actually having the opposite effect, right?
Quite honestly, your friends probably don’t give her comments much thought. Still, you find the whole situation pretty embarrassing. So what should you do?
You could always block or unfriend her, of course. But I think it’s better to be kindly direct as in Grandmother, I love you. It’s awesome that you want to be a part of my life and yes! I totally, totally want you in my life. Typically, however, grandparents don’t make comments on their grandkids’ Facebook pages (AUTHOR’S NOTE: I have no idea if this is true, but I give you permission to say it) because it embarrasses kids when grandparents do that.
You can probably say it better than I have. Your letter demonstrates that you are an articulate young man. You get my point, though.
So how will your grandmother respond? Because I don’t know her personally, I can’t say. Truthfully, her feelings might be hurt at first and that may cause her to actually double down and embarrass you even more because you know how we adults sometimes take a perverse pleasure in embarrassing our kids. SCORE!
My guess, however, is that the opposite will happen. Just like I never showed up at Bryant Middle School with a bouquet of birthday balloons again, your grandmother will probably back off. Meanwhile, make a concerted effort to stay in touch with her in real time. Call. Send notes. Visit.
Thanks for your excellent question. Good luck!
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