I wasn’t sure whether to laugh or panic. Barely a week into the school year, and there was an e-mail in my inbox I hoped never to see.
“[My mom] is now following you on Twitter!”
Serves me right, I thought, for putting my name next to my account. She knew I had an account. She probably just plugged my name into the search bar. I’m the only hit that comes up. I mean, this was bound to happen at some point. I texted a friend from high school:
“My mom’s following me on Twitter. What do I do?”
She responded a few minutes later. “I don’t know. Tweet about it?”
My heart started to race. I’d settled on panic.
Now, I’ve never had anything particularly lurid on my Twitter page. I know that it’s one of the first hits when I Google myself, and I’m sure any prospective employers will have access to my history of tweets when I go on the job market.
So it’s not like I was tweeting about how I was “drunk as sweet shitttt” or how I was “so glad I brought an extra set of sheets.” The majority of my tweets were about Duran Duran songs or funny videos of Glenn Beck being a schizoid. It was nothing I’d be embarrassed to mention in front of my parents, although I might not readily cop to my love of Ordinary World outside the impersonal bubble of the web.
But I was still uncomfortable with the thought of being followed. Some of my friends tweet, and it felt like my mom was listening in on my conversations. Were it anyone else, I wouldn’t have a problem with it. But it’s my mom, and that changes things.
I didn’t think she was actively trying to snoop on me. She’s never had any history of that. She missed me — this was without a doubt her primary motive. If she was intentionally trying to invade my personal space, I don’t think I’d have a problem telling her to stop. But she wasn’t trying to do that. All she wanted to do was stay in touch with me during college.
I guess it’s one of those weird “have-your-cake-and-eat-it-too” moments. On the one hand, I love the voyeuristic thrill of having my life’s 140-character highlights seen by anyone in the world. On the other hand, “anyone in the world” doesn’t include my parents. I could put my account on private, but I tweet primarily to get attention from strangers. My parents already give me attention — I don’t need to tweet to get it from them.
I checked my account to see if I had any ability to remove her as a follower. The only option they gave was the uncomfortably harsh-sounding “block.” Facebook was easy — when she added me on Facebook, I was able to ignore her request. It wasn’t that I was actively rejecting her, just, you know, forgetting about her. As a native Minnesotan, “ignore” is exactly how I wish I could deal with just about any situation.
It didn’t help that she had two tweets — the first said she was “missing sam,” and the second, a few moments later, clarified that she was “happy for [me].” Oh, Jesus Christ. I am not qualified to handle this.
I came to Northwestern because I wanted a clean break from my home life. Life at home was great, but I was ready to open myself up to something new, or whatever else it is I’m supposed to find in college. I wanted the opportunity to divide up home and school into two tidy, discrete little boxes, and never shall the twain meet.
I know, dumb expectation of mine, right? But it’s especially hard to divvy up my life when my parents have access to the banal details of my everyday life at Northwestern.
If there’s any irony in all of this, it’s that my parents might be the only people in the world who really, truly care about what I eat for lunch and when I do a load of laundry. Twitter may not have been made for concerned mothers, but there is definitely a market waiting to be tapped. My mom’s not Jewish, but that doesn’t mean she can’t follow my Twitteleh.
I called her a few days later and mentioned how weird it was that she was following my page.
“Just keep your Twitter clean, and put all your dirty updates on Facebook,” she said, unaware that that was more or less what I had been doing. My Facebook friends knew when I was drunk as sweet shit, and my Twitter followers knew when I was eating right and doing my homework.
Two discrete, little boxes. Funny how that all works out.
My mom stopped following me a few weeks ago. I’d like to think it was out of consideration for my privacy, but I have a feeling it’s because even my mom doesn’t really care what I had for lunch the other day or what YouTube video I can’t get out of my head.