“Help! My granny is on my Facebook!”

June 20th, 2013 by Kat Kingsley-Hughes

Tips for when Business, Social Media & Family don’t mix

Social media changed everything. Our work, our relationships, our families.

Family get-togethers that took place a few times a year are now daily occurrences. Uncle Joe’s lurid comments that were once tolerated around the yuletide dinner table aren’t so welcome when they crop up in reply to a Facebook comment by your boss.

This is all new stuff for families to deal with, and while some of us are canny, most of us are not. Social media makes it all too easy to air dirty laundry in public, inadvertently let the skeletons out of the family closet or rekindle old feuds with a quip that the commenter thinks is in private.

For those of us who work in social media or who use it as a tool of our work this is all potentially disastrous. Do I really want my carefully crafted PR campaign brought down by Auntie Maud commenting on her longstanding grudge against Cousin Gertrude? No!

But we’re all human and short of blocking our family members, what can we do?

I believe that education is the key. We must accept that not everyone understands the nature of the newer communication methods. Here are my thoughts on how to approach this if it is a problem for you:

Have the conversation!

Sit them down and talk about it.

Explain that this is your work. It may seem obvious to you, but if they spent the last fifty years going down a coalmine every morning they may not even realise that social media is part of your work.

Explain that the people you communicate with are your co-workers, bosses, business partners or clients. With luck, they may start to behave differently straightaway.

Explain the medium

They may well be using the web but that doesn’t necessarily mean anyone has actually explained it to them.

Many older folks also do not understand that when you share something you aren’t necessarily sending it to them. It’s not that they’re narcissistic or think the world revolves around them, they probably just don’t understand the nature of mass communication as you do. My Mom thanks me for sending her photos every time I share one on Facebook. The difference between sharing something and sending it isn’t necessarily obvious to the octogenarian when a notification pop-up arrives on their iPad.

Explaining that it’s more like publishing something in the newspaper than sending a letter or having a phone call will help to reduce the potential for awkward commentary.

This is particularly important with older relatives.

To many older folks writing a series of Facebook comments really is the modern equivalent of having a phone call. Explain that it isn’t. Facebook comments can be widely seen, easily shared, and are potentially actionable, both in civil and criminal law.

Inappropriate Comments

Explain to Uncle Jim that while he thinks he’s being funny imitating Alf Garnet, those types of comments will offend, and that if the worst came to the worst, Uncle Jim could find himself in prison for making them.

It’s entirely possible that Jim doesn’t know this. Possibly because he can get away with making those comments at Thanksgiving dinner and no one ever spoke up. That doesn’t mean he can say them publicly.  Times have changed and he may not have got the memo. (And you may want to reflect on the pitfalls of holding your tongue before your next family gathering!)

Criticizing Others

People talk about others behind their backs. It happens. But what if they do it on social media?

Often the response is “but so-and-so can’t see your Facebook”. This is where you have to explain that privacy is not guaranteed. What if a friend of so-and-so sees it? Comments are easily shared and screenshotted. Privacy settings can fail. Companies such as Facebook can have faults that show things that we think are hidden.

And the last thing you want to feel about your timeline is that it’s been turned into a minefield of potential problems caused by other people if you change your privacy settings.

Another thing to consider is whether you want to allow your peers seeing your relatives having a spat on Facebook. Will that change how people view you for not handling it better?

If you find you’re spending all your time being a cop on your own Facebook page just because some folks can’t behave, then maybe it’s time to take action. Especially if the miscreants are your family. Your work, your time and your image are important!

Remember the phrase:

“My Facebook. My Rules.”

Sending an email is not the same as sending a letter.

Explain to granny that emails are not like sending a letter.

We take great care writing out the address on an envelope, but an email can easily end up with the wrong person. It may get sent to multiple recipients, be forward or intercepted by strangers.

She may send an email in the heat of the moment or say things that she wouldn’t write on paper. If she understands that actually she always accidentally CCs you in the emails where she’s slagging you off to your sister, maybe she will take more care next time.

Give them a chance to change

Once you’ve had the chat, give them some time. Granddad gets a trial period after the conversation. Watch carefully and be ready to hit the delete key. If they don’t improve then blocking is the best answer.

Remember, you’re not blocking a family member; you’re blocking their account from accessing yours. You don’t let them access your bank account, so how is this any different? There is no reason this should have any impact on your relationship. After all you don’t take your great aunt to work with you, so why should she be included in your social media campaigns and business relationships?

If you have the conversation is a gentle open way then hopefully they will feel comfortable to use social media and you will be spared the discomfort of them sharing your baby pictures with the new client you thought you’d just bagged.

Criticizing You

Another key area to consider is criticism of you. What if the comments are from a relative or friend who criticizes you?  Other people may not notice the comments, or just write them off (after all pretty much all of us have one relative like that!) but those comments will go straight to your heart and slowly but surely zap your confidence.

It’s easy to take those little jibes day in and day out, but what do they do to your self-esteem?? You can work on yourself to reduce the affect the comments have, but by the nature of who they are our families have the ability to wound us, and wound deeply.

Consider blocking that person’s account as a serious option.

Again it doesn’t have to affect your relationship, you’re just choosing to give them less surface area to rub up against you on. Explain that this can even be better for your relationship. You will have more to talk about next time you see them because they won’t know all your news already, and your interaction will be much fresher.

Let’s face it, it’s pretty disappointing when you tell your great-granny you are getting married and she says “I know. I read it on your Facebook.”


I welcome your feedback so please reply. Or you can drop me an email or via Twitter.


This entry was posted on Thursday, June 20th, 2013 at 1:21 pm and is filed under Flotsam. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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