Am I becoming my mother? Facebook thinks so.
My mother is a beautiful woman. At 72, she is tall and fit with shimmering silver hair in a very flattering, soft bob. She has a fabulous smile, sparkling eyes, great skin, her clothes are stylish and hip. And Facebook thinks I am her.
Now listen, I may be 50, but I look damn good for my age. I am blonde and am currently sporting the longish, layered look I’ve affectionately entitled The Cougar 1A style (a term I coined way back when I was but 42). I am tall and fit, stylish and hip with a fabulous smile, sparkling eyes and great skin.
What gives, Zuckerberg? Do you not know that as much as I love my mother, being identified as her in every. single. photo. does, in fact, negatively impact my Facebook experience? How can you and your algorithm-adjusting minions get this so wrong?
My husband, who absolutely never posts or even goes on Facebook, decided while my son and I were visiting my mother (and father) over Easter break to finally post a few decade old photos from an extraordinary event we attended back when we were fresh-faced newlyweds. He texted me: “Facebook thinks I am married to my mother-in-law.” I had bangs back then, people! My complexion was dewey, my smokey eye was dark. My mom has never lined the bottom of her eyes in the 50 years I have known her! What are you thinking, Facebook?!
During this same trip, in a picture I posted to FB, both my mother and I were identified as “Robin” -- in the same picture. I am so confused. Even more...something, I am identified as my mother in a very sweet picture of me and my stepmother, my arm wrapped tightly around her shoulders. (NB: my mom and my stepmom get along great, so it’s not any interpersonal thing,)
And a little ego-shattering.
Now, without a doubt, my mother is a tremendous human, and I thank God every day to be her daughter. She is the most involved, compassionate, in-the-know person I have ever known. She taught me about art, beauty, faith, literature, music. So much music. The only reason I know anything interesting or worth knowing in the cultural zeitgeist is because of my mom.
She sends exquisite articles from the New Yorker and got me subscribing to The Writer’s Almanac and buying costly subscriptions to Image. She posts actually fascinating, edifying videos, articles and stories on Facebook. She gets her news from C-Span. She told me about the Pink Pussy Hats. She volunteers, campaigns, knocks on doors. She loves Amy Goodman. She is a poet and a writer in her own right. She cares deeply about the world and acts on her passions, be it the environment, her neighbors, her community, her country, her family or her friends. She is a devoted, returning Catholic with the most open-minded approach to faith and religion. My mom teaches me tolerance, compassion and empathy, every day. She taught me manners. She taught me how to care and how to be hopeful.
When people talk about my mother, they always say things like, “She’s so fantastic...so interesting...so involved...so caring.” “I ran into her at the (insert slightly esoteric, legendary musician, alt-rock band or folk artist here) concert!” “She encouraged me to write.” “I marched with her at the (fill-in-the-blank) protest.” “Your mother wrote me the nicest letter.” “Your mom’s so amazing.” “I love Robin.”
But, still, there is this confusion deep in the marketing halls of Facebook as to who is who. Or rather, who I am. Is it because we share the same interests? Interests that were germinated in me by her? Is it because we confer, agree, discourse in tandem on the things that mean the most to us, and we do it in this public forum?
Or, maybe, just maybe...I do have so much of my mom in me that Facebook, in all its Big Brotherish glory, cannot look away, cannot deny our connection, our intertwinedness, our very DNA.
Rather than the aeons-old question of “Am I becoming my mother?” have I actually become her already? Does Facebook know something I don’t?
I hope so.