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February 22, 2012 4:40 PM   Subscribe

My cousin puts all her business on Facebook. She's around 18 years old and puts all sorts of drama on her wall, mainly centered around her boyfriend. I'm concerned not only for her well-being with this guy but also finding a decent job once she decides to grow up. She's very cool and comfortable with me. Is there any way, I can approach her with this, without making her feel like a 2-year-old?
posted by InterestedInKnowing to Computers & Internet (25 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I'd encourage her to adjust her privacy settings, if nothing else.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 4:43 PM on February 22, 2012 [4 favorites]

Maybe start by talking about someone else's crazy Facebook mistake, like the girl who shared info with the family dog's Facebook page and then her dad read it and shot her laptop, as discussed in this thread:

Or one of the many stories about people who were not hired because of drunk photos.
posted by steinwald at 4:47 PM on February 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

Oh that didn't work.
posted by steinwald at 4:48 PM on February 22, 2012

Best answer: My teenage cousin does this, too (they all do, in fact). Our aunt (not her mother) tried to talk to her. Cousin unfriended her. Honestly, drama on Facebook is not really the end of the world. By the time she graduates and needs a job, she can either delete it/lock it down, Facebook won't exist, or the whole world will BE Facebook and our human bodies will cease to exist. I wouldn't worry too much about it unless she starts posting pictures of herself doing stuff that is illegal.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 4:52 PM on February 22, 2012 [23 favorites]

Seconding ThePinkSuperhero

It's probably not worth the breath to try to explain it to her, honestly.
posted by toomuchpete at 4:54 PM on February 22, 2012 [2 favorites]

Next time you run into to her, ask her about all the embarrassing stuff that she has been posting, item by item, as if you were re-visiting a previous conversation and just catching up.

It will let her know that people are paying attention to what she is saying, in a non-judgement way. Might help her to pay attention to what she is putting out there.

As far as the bf, he's dumb enough to date her, he can deal with his own consequences. He is not your responsibility.
posted by myselfasme at 5:01 PM on February 22, 2012 [4 favorites]

Or one of the many stories about people who were not hired because of drunk photos.

Seconding this. I have done this before and it has been effective.

But also, yes, Facebook will cease to be relevant soon anyway - something else will replace it.
posted by mleigh at 5:02 PM on February 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

You sound really old when you worry about things like this, even if it is a valid thing for you to worry about. That being said, I'd probably do it if I thought my little cousin would listen to me. I'm not sure you can avoid sounding authoritative, the best you can hope for is probably big-brother/sister. I think that ultimately your cousin will listen to you because of who you are, not how you say it.

But, if you are committed to talking to her instead of letting her make her own mistakes and hopefully learning from them, maybe try something like "Dude, I see all of your drama on Facebook! Are your privacy settings set up so that the whole world can't see that shit? I'll show you how to do it if you want. I don't your Facebook to, like, mess up your chances of getting a job or something."
posted by jabberjaw at 5:04 PM on February 22, 2012 [5 favorites]

By the time she is applying to jobs, either she will adjust her privacy settings (it's not that bloody difficult), or this sort of thing won't matter because guess what: everyone else her age is doing this too.
posted by mokudekiru at 5:09 PM on February 22, 2012 [3 favorites]

nthing jabberjaw. Ask her if she's set up privacy settings on Facebook -- for all you know, she already has them set, and she trusts you enough to let you see her drama.
posted by erst at 5:11 PM on February 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

If you want to check her privacy settings without her knowing, see if you can get someone who isn't her Facebook friend (and preferably not Friend of Friend, either) to try to look in her profile and tell you what they see.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 5:13 PM on February 22, 2012

The only way most teenagers and college-aged people I know (including myself) have learned to not share anything and everything on the internet is through awfully embarrassing experiences. No amount of well-meaning warnings would have convinced me that the jerkish comment I posted on one site would have wound its way to the grapevine back to the person it was originally about and that they would then call me out in front of our whole group of friends. Or that information I trusted to cousins and siblings and friends would eventually find its way back to my mom. It's those crawl-into-a-hole-and-die moments that help you grow up, and no amount of theoretical warnings will do a similar job.

If you want, you can maybe initiate a conversation about privacy settings, perhaps as a "can you teach me how to set up privacy settings?" type of conversation. If you demonstrate your own concern about things about yourself that you don't want getting out there, maybe it'll spur her to reevaluate on her own.

About the boyfriend, there's not much you can do to sway her one way or another. You can make clear that you're available to talk about stuff if she needs it, but if you try to convince her to break up or become less invested in him it's going to almost certainly backfire. Remain nonjudgmental and neutral whenever she brings him up in conversation, and focus less on telling "this is what you should do" and more on asking exploratory questions that will guide her to understanding the situation better herself. I'm assuming the relationship drama consists of typical young-love "he didn't text me back for two whole hours!!" and not something more serious like abuse that merits immediate intervention.
posted by lilac girl at 5:13 PM on February 22, 2012 [8 favorites]

In my experience, most kids her age and a little older are living their lives completely out loud and transparently on FB. Whenever something goes catastrophically wrong, they just kill the page and make a new profile. I know people who are on at least their third FB ID. I'm not sure it matters anymore. Once they figure it out, they'll make their adult FB ID.
posted by toodleydoodley at 6:12 PM on February 22, 2012 [2 favorites]

Danah Boyd, professional academic researcher of "OMG the kids are on the internetz" type stuff, basically agrees with toodleydoodley. While you're mentioning the Fired Facebook Fairy, you could also tell her about Super-Logoff and its drama quelling possibilities.
posted by Diablevert at 6:41 PM on February 22, 2012 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks guys, her relationship drama includes her boyfriend cheating on her, her posting warnings to "hoes and bitches and sluts" and posting pictures of his room in disarray after a fight.
posted by InterestedInKnowing at 6:48 PM on February 22, 2012

My younger cousins do the same thing. It's really frustrating/kind of embarrassing to read, so I totally hear you. I've not had any luck with trying to get them to knock it off. Sadly, like many people have said above, I think they just have to grow up a bit on their own and develop a sense of discretion. I mostly just stick to correcting their grammar. Obnoxious in its own way, but lets them know that older relatives are paying attention. They might filter you off those posts then, which doesn't solve the problem, really, but it means you don't have to look at it.
posted by Aquifer at 7:24 PM on February 22, 2012

I don't think saying something to her will do any thing.

What I would do: at next big family get together, in front of everybody, I would bring up the drama.

You: "So Cousin, the other day/week/month I saw you warning other bitches, hos and sluts to stay away from your man. Is everything going ok for you now?

*everyone turns to stare*
posted by Sweetmag at 8:44 PM on February 22, 2012 [2 favorites]

As someone who just a couple of hours ago overheard two 20-something recruiters disqualify, with great merriment, a candidate for parading her whole sordid life publicly on Facebook, I'd advise you to ignore people who think it doesn't matter. It amazes me that anyone above 10 years old would think it wouldn't, but I still get people who argue with spittle-flecked passion that degrees/dress code/bathing/diction/grammar/etc don't matter in life.
posted by kjs3 at 9:41 PM on February 22, 2012 [6 favorites]

If you get a chance to ever say this to her, this is my mantra for what is important and irreversible in life: Keep your police record clean, your credit healthy, your twice-yearly dental appointments, and your Facebook friends-only.

(But yes, if it was me, I would make a point of asking her about bitches, hos, sluts, and her shitty boyfriend every time I saw her. She's putting it out there, she can answer for it.)
posted by Lyn Never at 9:42 PM on February 22, 2012

She might have bigger problems than her public Facebook profile that need to be addressed. Facebook seems like a bandaid issue. I have a feeling that her Facebook will straighten up once she does.
posted by jabberjaw at 10:59 PM on February 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

If you want to check her privacy settings without her knowing, see if you can get someone who isn't her Facebook friend (and preferably not Friend of Friend, either) to try to look in her profile and tell you what they see.

You can do this yourself from their timeline, too. Look under the post, and next to where it says 'three hours ago near San Diego' or whatever, there's an icon of a globe (for public) or two silhouettes (for friends-only).
posted by Infinite Jest at 12:14 AM on February 23, 2012

My reminder to kids about Facebook:

It feels like you're sitting in a room with a bunch of your friends, with the door closed. It's actually more like you're standing on a street corner with a megaphone.

I've also tried this tactic (which I think doesn't work): you know how embarrassed you are when I bring up how much you liked Barney as a kid? We didnt have facebook back then.

You're one year away from being embarrassed about what you like today. And you put it on the Internet. You're putting Barney on the Internet.
posted by vitabellosi at 4:11 AM on February 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

Disclaimer: I am not a teenager - far from it.

I used to post a lot on FB. Nothing too personal, mainly just comments on some show I'd watched or something happening on the news. I live alone, and sometimes it's nice to talk about things like this online, hoping to strike up a conversation at the time.

But after after a couple of people at work, whom I'd forgotten were FB "friends", commented on something I'd said the night before, then I overheard my boss talking about people who post too much on FB, then mentioning my name, I realised I had to tone it down.

Since then I have a few people marked as "Close Friends" on FB. Nobody from work, no family. Any inane comments I want to post only goes to the close friends list.

My point is, as a couple of others have said, when you see her, just comment on something that she's written that she might be uncomfortable with you knowing about. "Sorry to hear your date with 'loser guy' didn't work out, but it's probably for the best", "You really seem to get into a lot of arguments with boyfriend. Are you sure he's worth it?". Maybe she'll get the hint that when she's posting on FB, often a lot of people are listening.
posted by Diag at 4:30 AM on February 23, 2012

I'm skeptical of the claim made by a few here that you can just delete your FB profile and all will be well. I can find stuff on that I deleted over a decade ago on regular sites. Additionally, if the indiscretion is large then offended parties will hold and republish screen shots. I can appreciate how most people are getting more easy going about this stuff but I wouldn't just assume that there is an 'undo' button for stupid behavior.

How you convey the gravity of this realization to your 18 year old cousin is another matter altogether. My favorite solution is Sweetmag's.
posted by dgran at 10:39 AM on February 23, 2012

I can appreciate how most people are getting more easy going about this stuff but I wouldn't just assume that there is an 'undo' button for stupid behavior.

There isn't now, nor has there ever been, an "undo" button for stupid behavior.

What there is, now, is a far greater understanding and acceptance of the amount of stupid behavior perpetrated by teenagers and also the number of instances for which there is hard, inescapable proof of said stupid behavior.

People who are 18 say and do stupid things. The stupid things referred to above are extremely unlikely to really result in any sort of negative consequences for an adult with a college degree, etc.

It's not so much that this stuff magically becomes not stupid or able to be disposed of, it's that as time goes on and more and more teenagers start living their lives in public fora, we're going to be too inundated with tales of their stupidity to give so much as a single shit about what a person did at 18 when they walk through our doors at 30 looking for a job. (I'm fairly certain this is already true for virtually all professions)
posted by toomuchpete at 1:07 PM on February 24, 2012

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