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Culture

Your Mum Has Ruined Facebook

A deep dive investigation into the demographic spoiling the internet for everyone.

by Angus Harrison
12 October 2017, 7:45am

Photo: Jonathan Beale, via Flickr

Facebook isn't yours any more. Mark Zuckerberg might have designed it for horny undergrads sitting in dorm rooms, but they have all been forced out. It has been colonised, the landscape changed to reflect nothing but reaction GIFs about chocolate and videos of babies dropping things. This new, cosseted online realm is Mum Facebook.

This is actually happening, by the way: social media users are getting older. People who first signed up to Facebook in around 2007 are now in their mid-twenties at the very least. The brand has struggled to attract new teenage users in the same way it used to, and surveys have indicated a growing backlash among younger people who resent the role social media is playing in their lives. Compare that to a recent Ofcom report which showed that, in the UK, a huge 41 percent of baby boomers now have Facebook – also noting a "striking growth in older people's use of technology between 2015 and 2016" – and the transformation becomes clearer.

The cultural effect of this has been the emergence of an increasingly dominant version of the social network, curated and occupied by middle-to-retirement aged women on iPads, shit-posting about Poldark.

Your mum's profile picture is her on holiday – possibly in Tenerife. For a long time it was just a picture of a daffodil until she worked out how to upload her tagged photos. She's sitting at a white plastic table, is facing the camera dead-on and is raising a glass of wine up to say cheers. Her friend Stephanie has commented saying "fab" – the word "fab" is trending now, thanks to Mum Facebook, along with "gorge" – to which your mum has replied saying, "Thanks Steph. Must coffee soon. Xxx."

Your mum believes in the competitions on Facebook. She believes that if she shares a picture of 15 bottles of Smirnoff she might win them. She believes that if she likes and follows this finance blog she might win a £15 Amazon voucher. She believes that if she likes, shares and comments "love a good burger" in the comment box below this picture of an Aberdeen-reared beef burger she may well be the lucky recipient of a lunch for two at one of our venues with a free ale or wine on arrival.

Your mum has completely changed the meaning of the like button. Where you used it delicately – a dropped hint, a winking nod, a show of solidarity – she uses it to bludgeon her approval at every half-baked life hack or Graham Norton sofa announcement she sees. She's turned your timeline into an endless scroll of parrots staggering across kitchen floors with captions about drinking cocktails, or pictures of Chris Tarrant from 1974 captioned "WHO REMEMBERS TISWAS?" And unlike you, your mum is liking all of it because she does. There is zero duplicity. She likes it all. She thinks all the content is great.

You mum shares a lot of memes, only, they're sort of not memes and more like fridge magnets. Your mum doesn't call them memes, obviously; she calls them "silly things I've seen". Mum memes fall into a few distinct categories:

Wine or gin memes "It's always 5PM somewhere!" / "Tonight's forecast... 99% chance of wine" / "WINE TRUCK… If kids deserve an ice cream truck then adults deserve a wine truck!"

Sincere "I love my kids" memes – "To my children… If I had to choose between loving you and breathing… I would use my last breath to tell you… I love you."

Cheeky memes – "Never hold farts in! They travel up your spine, into your brain and that's where shitty ideas come from!"

Uplifting, inspiring memes – "Better to be absolutely ridiculous than absolutely boring!"

Sometimes your mum shares something close to a political meme, but all it really amounts to is pictures of Donald Trump done up like the Scarecrow from the Wizard of Oz. The most widely adopted political stance on Mum Facebook is apolitical – lots of banter about all politicians being liars and Ed Miliband looking like a Wallace and Gromit character.

Your mum uploads an album of 12 photographs every time she goes out for dinner, even if she ate at Pizza Express.

It's fresher's week, and your mum has commented on a photo of you in fancy dress, saying "what's with the outfit? xxx"


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Your mum loves video content. She loves videos of toddlers singing along to Disney songs in the car with their truly epic dads. She loved that video of Channing Tatum on lip sync battle. She loves videos shared by pages with names like "Hilarious Laughing" or "Life is Funny". She likes every second of screen time that has ever aired on Ellen. She likes videos of overweight children on school buses over-laid with emotional music and text explaining how they overcame bullying by learning to breakdance.

Going by her Facebook activity, it's safe to say your mum would probably shag a minion.

Your mum shares a lot of lost property or personal interest stories: missing wedding dresses, dying children's final wishes, teachers trying to make a photo go viral to demonstrate it to their class, lost memory cards full of photos. She once got it a bit wrong and accidentally shared a Britain First image of a poppy, but we've had a chat and blocked the page and everything is fine now.

Your mum does a new status every time somebody leaves Strictly.

Your mum puts kisses after everything she writes, including one word answers.

Your mum commented "stunning" on a photo of you and some new colleagues in the pub barely a week into a new job.

Your mum just wrote "don't rate jim carrey" underneath a BBC news story about him.

Your mum shares news stories about traffic jams.

Your mum comments on the official Elton John page's photos.

Your mum thinks the official Elton John page is actually Elton John.

Facebook has always been a calling card of the millennial generation, yet the emergence of Mum Facebook, and the disenchantment of younger users, forces us to consider the possibility of a more fundamental demographic shift. Mum Facebook could be set to take over completely.

Our parents have little of the cynicism we take to the internet – tellingly, Ofcom's recent study suggested as much as 16 percent of over-55s have never considered privacy when uploading a photo. Their relationship with sharing online is a simpler, more joyful one. To them, Facebook is a place of kind-hearted humour and making connections. Those who have retired have the time to use it every day; to sit sliding up and down their iPads for hours in their reading glasses. And as is the algorithmic model, the more they use it, the more they mould it in their image.

Among my friends, I'd struggle to think of anyone who enjoys using Facebook any more. Over the past couple of years the newsfeed has become little more than an endless stream of people tagging each-other in eye-wateringly unfunny reaction videos and "relatable" GIFs. While it seems unfair to blame your mum, it's also a little hard not to. After all, what is this feel-good viral spam if not mum-bait? Content for a millions-strong audience of mothers who will like, click and share absolutely anything. Mums are going to push us all out, one photo of a yawning dog at a time.

We shouldn't be that surprised – this was probably always going to happen. For mums, joining Facebook was like looking into the eye of an ancient star, feeling all of time and space moving through them at once. She no longer had to make three different phone-calls to find out if your cousin had her baby yet, whether Susan from keep-fit had landed safely in Australia, and where you went out last night. Suddenly it was all there, all at once. She has been hooked into the mainframe ever since, inviting you to play Farmville and twitching the digital curtains.

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