I, like the vast majority of my university attending social peers, have a Facebook account. Like my particularly sneaky peers, I also have a second one under a slight variation of my name that I will not put in print for fear of people finding it. It’s stocked with slightly embarrassing childhood and family photos (including an entire album dedicated to school picture days in which my siblings and I sport an exciting range of mismatched polo shirts) and whichever whistle-clean pictures of me and my friends having wholesome fun I could find. Now five years old, it has served its purpose well. Throughout high school I could fearlessly allow myself to be tagged in edgy (and usually anxiously posed) house party pictures, even if they included such shocking props as cigarettes, mini skirts, middle fingers and even (gasp!) Smirnoff Ice. I could smugly watch the likes roll in, safe in the knowledge that my family, all blocked, would never see them. My personality front of a lame, tame, well-behaved mathlete was impenetrable, all thanks to my computer skills being slightly better than my parents’.
Over the years, as my family members either died of old age or got slowly less technologically incompetent and more unwillingly tolerant of my teenage behaviour, I found myself unblocking them one by one from my side account and adding them on my main one. Lucky them, I thought, getting such privileged glimpses into my super-cool life as a high school going-on university student. Naturally, the thought that most of them didn’t particularly care never occurred to me. This narcissistic obsession of mine was only encouraged by my great aunt Elaine’s enthusiastic commenting on anything involving recognisable Oxford objects or backgrounds and my mum calling me once a month to list the various boys I had been tagged in pictures with to see if any of them were now my boyfriend.
Eventually, I had so few people left on this second account that my only activity on it was one annual logging on in August to reply to my Grandad’s solitary birthday wishes. The bastion and final upholder of my family’s once proud working-class social conservatism, he had never really let go of the politics of the late 70s, or the innocence of my seven-year-old self. Considering his fury when I once offered him a “facon sandwich” – referring, of course, to the delicious vegetarian meat alternative; he had misunderstood me as swearing with a heavy accent – I never thought he’d approve of pictures of me getting bop juice poured into my mouth while dressed like a French maid, or being put in the bin outside the Rad Cam (shout-out to any prospective employers reading this).
I’ve like to claim that I acquired enough maturity and humility to approach The Final Unblocking on my own, but that is sadly not the case. I was instead prompted to by my sister, and more specifically, by a picture of my sister at a house party wearing a miniskirt and drinking Echo Falls. Being considerably cooler than I was at her age, she was even sitting on her boyfriend’s lap. I was thus shocked to see that my stern granddaddy had not only liked this picture, but commented. And what was this comment – a severe reprimand about delinquent behaviours? A passive aggressive expression over concern for her welfare? No, merely, “LOL.”
I immediately called my sister to ask if he’d ever brought up her Facebook activity with her, convinced this couldn’t be his entire reaction. It wasn’t. She told me that he’d told our mum he was worried about her drinking, and that he strongly disapproved of that Jack Davidson character who kept cropping up. But what could he do about it? Impose a curfew from his flat in Spain, or get another, more well-behaved behaved granddaughter? She’d rather that he knew about this stuff and not approve and love her anyway than barely know her at all. Sheepishly and in awe of my little sister’s great wisdom, I unblocked and added him, only to find that he’s got old photos too. We like each others’ pictures every so often, but I’m not sure I approve of everything he did in the 70s