Image: Family 1976 via Flickr, CC 2.0After surpassing 1 billion users this past month, Facebook has become an institution that appears to have some staying power.  But there is a lingering issue that threatens Facebook’s dominance even more than advertising revenue and stockholder discontent.

When Kathy Savitt was named CMO of Yahoo, a lot was written about her obsession with Generation Z (the generation born post 1990 or so). In a talk that she gave to an audience of marketers, she described that Generation Y and Generation Z view Facebook with a lot of apprehension.

The reason: because their parents and grandparents are there in force. I remember thinking that was an interesting insight at the time.

But now I totally get it.

I share two things on Facebook: pictures of my kids and links to my writing. The pictures are primarily for grandparents and family who live three time zones away, and the writing is to share with anyone who’s interested. It turns out that my mom enjoys both.

Growing up

we didn’t have great boundaries in my house and my mom was always very interested in what I did. I used to write songs about the girls I had crushes on in seventh grade. My mom made it a point to keep tabs on those. When I was in high school, our home phone had a habit of picking up noise from the other side of the house, almost as if someone was listening on the other line (for those of you are confused about how that works – we didn’t have cell phones). Point being, it was a little stifling.

So, when I went to college and eventually went into the Army, I enjoyed some autonomy courtesy of geographic distance and my family’s hodophobia. And as much as I admire and appreciate my parents for my upbringing, I needed that autonomy. I LOVED that autonomy.

I could continue to emphasize the point, but will continue …

So, I wrote a somewhat personal piece the other day that I shared on Facebook, and my mom commented on it.  That was the “a-ha” moment for me.

I found that even as an adult, there are some things that I’d like to enjoy some control over.

I read the comment with the same cringe that I remember feeling when I discovered that my mom had been “organizing” my room (a euphemism for going through my stuff).

If I were a teenager now

there is absolutely no way I would be on Facebook, or if I was I would never update it.  Think about it: what possible incentive would there be to cede the autonomy that other social networks offer? Tumblr and Instagram are popular now with teenagers, but rest assured they won’t be as soon as parents start getting connected to them.

Pearl Jam has a lyric: “All that’s sacred is in youth,” and I’ve always interpreted taken that to mean that the most transformative and sacrosanct experiences that we have are when we’re young.

Now that my hair is gray and my kids are intent to speed the graying process, I’m much more pragmatic and much less inspired.  I’m a grown-up and I’m on Facebook.  And so is my mom.

Facebook is no longer sacred. The autonomy that it might have offered early adopters has disappeared. But on the bright side, it is a phenomenal place to post pictures of your kids. I’ve never had a bad experience doing that.

What do you think? Am I overreacting a bit? Will the next generations be lured to Facebook by Farmville and stay for the advertising?

Image: Family 1976 via Flickr, CC 2.0

Jim Dougherty
Jim Dougherty writes about content and social media at leaderswest.com, and is a frequent contributor to the Cision blog. He lives in Cincinnati, Ohio with a coterie of human and animal companions.
Jim Dougherty
Jim Dougherty