Words by Bryonna Manes
Facebook used to be the turf of the Millennials and Generation Z. From 2004 to 2008 I spent a majority of my time begging my mom to let me have a Facebook. Sure, I had a Myspace—which seems way more dangerous now, when I look back— but I wanted a Facebook. Everyone had one and my 10 through 14-year-old self was convinced that if I had a Facebook, all my problems would be solved. I’d be popular, boys would like me and all my friends would see how awesome I was. My how things have changed. Now, Facebook is like this land of potential employers spying on me and my parents and family peering in at my life. Oh, and let’s not forget to mention friends tagging me in really embarrassing photos and BuzzFeed articles that reveal the not-so flattering attributes of my life. Facebook is no longer this fun land of popularity and taking pretty profile pictures that your mom makes you take down when boys comment on them. Facebook is something to be navigated, patrolled and mastered. and let me tell you, I have not mastered it.
My relationship with Facebook previous to this past month had been rather easy. I managed to avoid being tagged in embarrassing photos (mostly). I minimized my use of curse words and strong language to avoid scaring away any employers or scaring my grandparents and receiving a lecture. The only Facebook downfall I seemed to be guilty of was expressing my emotions through song lyrics. That’s right, I was one of those people. The emotionally charged and tear-inspiring lyrics of Sara Bareilles’ can be found in my Timehop feed at least once a month. Until this past month, that was the only Facebook “mistake” I was aware I had made. It wasn’t until I was on the phone with my father the weekend before this past Easter that I became aware of how naive to Facebook’s use and presence I had been.
The conversation with my father was taking place due to the fact that I had decided to attend Easter dinner at my mother’s side of the family’s instead of with my father’s side of the family. I should clarify, every year we alternate. This year, my parents went to my father’s side, and I went to my mother’s side (and my brother went to work). Before anyone goes jumping to assumptions, I did not skip Easter with my dad’s family because of some grudge or favoritism; I actually miss that side of my family quite often. I had decided to attend Easter dinner with my mother’s side of the family because her father, my Pappap, wasn’t doing so well and I wanted to spend some time with him and the rest of the family. We had recently lost her mother, my grandmother. So it felt nice to stay close to them and see them a bit more than usual. There was no underlying reason I decided not to go to my dad’s side.
But I did fail to communicate that with everyone involved (strike one).
My lack of communication is what inspired the conversation with my father. He called me to talk about some concerns his side of the family had. They were worried that I did not want to come to dinner there because they offended me in some way. I was flabbergasted. Offended me? What could they have done to offend me? They were loving, sweet and always interested in my life. Sure, we didn’t see each other often, and I wasn’t very good at calling them to talk and catch up or visit them on my own without my parents with me. As I thought about it, I realized if anyone had anything to be offended about, it was them. I was awful! Looking past the epiphany of self-scolding I was having, I asked my dad, “Well what did she say?” referring to my aunt. The next words I heard from my cell phone were compiled into a sentence I wouldn’t have been able to predict if my life depended on it. He said, “Well, she wanted to make sure you didn’t feel upset, and wanted to know if it was about the whole girlfriend thing because that isn’t something to worry about.” Girlfriend. He did say girlfriend, right? Yes, yes, my parents know that I am a girl who likes girls. I also like boys. I just so happen to be dating a girl right now. The thing is, I didn’t think my dad’s side of the family knew anything about it! The next stream of words came out of my mouth so fast. They were somewhere along the lines of, “She knows? How does she know?” And then, my father, who didn’t have a smart phone until about a year and a half ago, my father, who doesn’t even have a Facebook himself said, “Well they saw it on Facebook, sweetie.”
And that, ladies and gents, was how I came out on Facebook (strike two).
The next 15 minutes on the phone with my father were spent trying not to cry (because I had come out to my family and didn’t even know it) and figuring out what I should do next. It turns out, not only my aunt and cousin, but even my 85-year-old grandma (who does not have a Facebook) knew about it. They had all previously met my girlfriend, sat there and listened to me call her my “friend” and “roommate” like a jackass, and never even broke a grin or a chuckle. We were masters at not talking about things. I was mortified. Not that I had a girlfriend, or even that my family knew about it. I was fine with that. I wasn’t even really trying to keep it a secret. I just didn’t know how to talk about it. They don’t give you a handbook or anything when you attend your first gay pride meeting or something. But they really should, don’t you think?
This was my major moment of Facebook faux pas. I came out to my family on Facebook, without even knowing it. Not only was I embarrassed for acting so childish and not simply talking to my family, but I was impressed with how relatively casual my whole family was about the situation. Not to mention how skilled they were at going along with my “friend” scenario. They didn’t even bat an eye. In the end, I realized that family will always love you. Do I expect them to forgive me right away for not telling them myself? Of course not. But my family is always going to love me and have my back. That’s more than I can say for that tricky little friend called Facebook.