Sometimes it feels like if you don't post, tweet, or Tumbl an event, it kind of isn't real. But while you're focusing on inflicting FOMO upon your frenemies, it's easy to forget about your most ardent and devoted social media fan base: your family. And now that the holidays are here, you've got some explaining to do.
For example, Aunt Karyn is curious to know how you could have possibly been "too sick" to meet her for dinner on the same night you were live-tweeting a gloriously ill-considered trip to an after-hours club located in the basement of a cardboard box factory. Meanwhile, Grandma's been reading all about this Tinder contraption in Time magazine and she's not sure she likes the sound of it. Your family has been using their shared data to follow your every move, and now they want some answers. Ahhhh! How to explain everything?
Problem: A Vine showing off your new home decor also happened to reveal your new tattoo.
Tactic: Teach your family that social media is not reality.
Explain to your parents that the Internet You is not the Real You. Train them to think of that person as the Cathy to your Patty Duke — a distant cousin who bears a striking resemblance to you but is in many ways your total opposite. And actually, it's kind of true, isn't it? After all, the social media version of you only eats the finest and most photogenic artisanal foods, whereas Real You ate Count Chocula for dinner last night. Your parents can't unsee that tattoo, but you can at least explain to them that you're telling them all the important stuff and that the Internet You isn't really worth paying much attention to. (Frankly, you would probably do well to take some of your own advice on this score.) As a follow-up gesture of goodwill, consider helping your Grandma design her own tattoo to celebrate her upcoming eightieth.
Problem: Your mother stumbled on a late night stream of tweets in which you complained about her for two hours.
Tactic: Beg forgiveness. Then promise to call her more often.
First, face the fact that you messed up. Your mom gave birth to you, she's welcoming you home for the holidays, and she probably even bought you a present. Was it really cool of you to send all those tweets about how much anxiety your latest bonding weekend at the yoga retreat gave you, or about how her new haircut makes her look like George Washington? If you find yourself making excuses for yourself, stop. Suck it up, explain that you were having a rough day, that you didn't mean any of it, and then tell her that you'll use your unlimited minutes to call her at least once a week.
Then actually follow through on that promise. And no posting online for at least two hours after you talk to her, no matter how demoralized you are by the undermining "advice" she tries to give you. She means well. From now on, complain to your friends, not the world.
Problem: Your little brother found the secret blog in which you chronicled your ultra-painful breakup and then forwarded it to the whole family. And until now, no one even knew you had broken up. They're Concerned.
Tactic: Explain yourself.
Emphasize that you held back because you didn't want to expose them to your emotional pain, and you certainly didn't want to have to tell all of Facebook that your ex was cheating on you. Maybe they have a history of overreacting when you've been honest with them about the low points of your life in the past. Make them understand that sometimes sharing your dirty secrets anonymously with strangers can be cathartic, whereas telling your parents all the gory details can just lead to more stress for everyone. Swear you'll keep them more in the loop in the future — as long as they hold it together when you tell them the truth about your life. And if all of this fails, distract them by bringing up a politician they hate. You'll still get an earful from them, but hey, at least it won't be about your life choices.
Problem: Your parents just don't get why you get so excited when strangers "like" a photo of some tacos you ate, and it troubles them deeply. Don't you think it might be time to reconsider your priorities?
Tactic: Get them hooked.
The reason your parents, grandma, and Aunt Karyn are spending so much time scrutinizing your social media presence is because they haven't yet gotten addicted to it themselves. Encourage them to use some of your shared data to set up their own accounts, or to actually start using the accounts they do have for something other than keeping tabs on you. Old people can overshare too! Walk them through all the ways social media works, and teach them to experience the thrill of racking up "likes." Once Aunt Karyn has discovered the joys of posting cat pictures and sending late-night messages to her recently divorced high school sweetheart, monitoring your online doings will suddenly seem much less appealing. Before you know it, you may start feeling downright neglected.
Just don't blame us when Nana Bernice masters the art of the selfie and becomes the Tinder Queen of her retirement community. At least her unlimited data will keep her from squandering your future inheritance on data overages.
Gabrielle Moss has written mostly funny stuff (but also some serious stuff) for GQ.com, The Hairpin, Nerve, etc. You can follow her here.