Teen Talk: Mom’s Facebook posts seen as privacy invasion

DEAR KELLY: My mom always posts stuff about me on her Facebook, and I hate it. I keep telling her to stop, and she won’t. I hate all the stuff she posts about me and the pictures she shares. I tell her it seems like she’s bragging. She doesn’t think so, and doesn’t stop.

Half of the people who reply to her stupid posts have only met me like a few times and they act like they know me, which is weird. How can I tell my mom that enough is enough? It makes me mad, and we get into big fights about it. What do I do so she finally stops?

– GT

Dear GT: Here lies one of the many problems with social media: the issue of privacy. From posts to pictures to tweets, social media can be an invasion of someone else’s privacy when the other person doesn’t want to be tagged, quoted or identified on someone else’s page. What is it about what your mother says or shows that bothers you so much? Would it feel different if it were your girlfriend sharing things about you or your buddies? Just because it’s your mom, does that make it seem like such a wrong thing?

I appreciate your desire for privacy. Having someone post personal information about you can feel embarrassing (especially as a teenager) and invasive of your personal space. Is your mom bragging or just sharing her life with people she knows? Perhaps if you share with others it doesn’t feel as invasive as having someone else talk about you without your permission.

You bring up a good point about not wanting your business put out for others you hardly know to see. Social media has changed over the years and people seem to be sharing more and more. Some people use Facebook as a way to connect with others and others use it for support or affirmations from others. Your mom probably thinks that what she shares is harmless and that people enjoy knowing about you because they know about her. Clearly she isn’t hearing you or your concerns if she continues to do this knowing that it irritates or upsets you. Or if she does hear you, she is unwilling to change.

Some parents use their Facebook as a scrapbook of their children’s lives. They are proud of their kids and their accomplishments and want to share it with others. There is nothing wrong with this, as long as the other person is OK with what is being shared. In your case, you are not. While she may not like your asking her to stop posting about you, she needs to honor it. Your right to privacy should transcend into her Facebook if it makes you uncomfortable and you are bothered by what she tells about your life.

For things to change you need to give a little, too. Let’s start with the obvious: Your approach of calling her posts stupid isn’t helping your cause. Ultimately it is her Facebook and she can put on it what she wants, even if it makes you angry. Maybe she is thinking that you talk to her disrespectfully and she doesn’t want you to think you can tell her what to do. Instead of making this a privacy issue, you have made it more about a power struggle by the tone and choice of words you use. Think about this: When your mom wants you to mow the lawn or take out the trash, is it better if she asks you calmly or kindly, or if she demands it and talks to you disrespectfully?

Try a different tactic that doesn’t involve insulting her and causing her to become defensive. Be respectful of her while asking her to respect you as well. Calmly tell her that you would like her to honor your privacy now that you are older and not post things or pictures of you on her Facebook. Or if she does want to share something, perhaps she consults with you first to see if you are comfortable with what she is sharing. There is a difference between sharing and oversharing, and you and your mom need to establish some boundaries around this.

If you do something really great and she asks to share, don’t be too quick to say no. Find out why she thinks others would want to know. Maybe you agree on the wording so it makes you feel comfortable and she doesn’t attach a picture.

Sometimes as parents it is hard to remember our kids are growing up and they don’t want everything about their life shared – unless it is them doing the sharing. Your mom should respect your wishes on this if it really matters to you – and it does. Having a proud mom isn’t a bad thing, it’s just an uncomfortable thing when you are a teenager and you want discretion in what others know about you. If she refuses to stop posting about you on her social media sites, the only thing you can do is to stop following her or reading her posts. Perhaps what you don’t know won’t sting as much.

Kelly Richardson, a Folsom therapist, works with adolescents.