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Can You Be Friends With Your Mom ... On Facebook?

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Can You Be Friends With Your Mom ... On Facebook?

Can You Be Friends With Your Mom ... On Facebook?

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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A frightening thing happened to commentator Jennifer Sharpe a few days ago. She logged on to her Facebook account and got the most dreaded of all friend requests.

JENNIFER SHARPE: It was from my mother. She hadn't uploaded a profile picture yet, but it was clearly her: female, San Francisco, friends with cousin Phil. Though I'm always happy to see her when she visits me in Santa Monica, the idea of becoming Facebook friends stopped me in my tracks.

I turned to write a status update about my quandary and got 20 comments. Heidi Deruiter's was the first.

Ms. HEIDI DERUITER: If your mom is saying, I want you to be my Facebook friend, then you know what? Deal with it.

SHARPE: When I'd called to ask her to elaborate on the comment she'd left, she explained that she loved being friends with her mother and had even helped set up her profile.

Ms. DERUITER: I learned the cutest things about her because she just attacked that profile, filling in her favorite TV shows, her favorite movies. She was like, oh, "The Barefoot Contessa."

SHARPE: But the idea of finding my mother's Facebook page cute made me uncomfortable.

Ms. SARAH CAIN: Maybe if you were, like, 22 or something, I could imagine not wanting to friend your mom.

SHARPE: But at the age of 40?

(Soundbite of laughter)

SHARPE: Yes, 40. To Sarah Cain, I was laboring over a non-issue. And to Nicole Eisenman, who had rejected her father's request, it was no big deal to just hit the ignore button.

Ms. NICOLE EISENMAN: Because of the whole unrequited love thing. You could actually ignore your parents, and they'll understand.

SHARPE: I thought about my audience of 500 friends and wondered if my mother's presence would hinder my performance. If there were anyone who would detect inauthenticity in my self-packaging, it would be her.

Ms. DOROTHY BOURGOIS: She's going to look at it all the time.

SHARPE: Dorothy Bourgois suggested I make my mother read my teenage diaries as a way of scaring her out of Facebook friendship. Then she explained that she looks at her 16-year-old son's page every day.

Ms. BOURGOIS: It's horrifying. It's the energy I would expend to, like, virtually stalk a boyfriend, I have now put into my son.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SHARPE: The longer I left my mother's friend request dangling, the more guilt I felt glancing past it: Sandra Sharpe, confirm or ignore. I was veering towards offering her a restricted access friendship when the phone rang, and it was her.

I noticed that you're on Facebook now.

Ms. SANDRA SHARPE: Oh, my God. Yeah, Jimena made me do it.

SHARPE: Since caving into peer pressure and joining Facebook, she'd experienced nothing but guilt and anxiety. She felt accosted by friend requests, comments, and even the friend suggestions Facebook was automatically generating out of her address book.

Ms. SHARPE: There are all of these faces that are now there, and I feel rude not to accept all of them. I don't feel free to say no to anybody, but I don't really want to be your Facebook friend.

SHARPE: The next morning, I returned to her friend request and paused before hitting the ignore button.

Ms. SHARPE: No guilt. No guilt.

SHARPE: Watching her name vanish from the screen, I felt both courageous and cowardly, but I knew I had averted disaster, because if I had accepted her as a Facebook friend, my father couldn't have been far behind.

BLOCK: Jennifer Sharpe lives in Santa Monica, California. By the way, since Jennifer told us about her dilemma and its solution, we learned that there is an entire Web site devoted to the very subject. Naturally, it's called

(Soundbite of music)

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