Oh Crap. My Parents Joined Facebook: Meet the Local Ladies Behind The Hilarious New Website

Guest Blogger Esther D. Kustanowitz is a freelance writer and creative consultant who recently relocated from New York to Los Angeles. She wears a lot of sunblock, and blogs at My Urban Kvetch and JDaters Anonymous, among other places.

Imagine you threw a party and invited all your friends. You’re goofing around, taking silly pictures, totally having a great time. And then your parents walk in…not to bust you, but to join the party. They want in on your private jokes, they finish their fortune cookie readings with “in bed,” and might even bust out with a “that’s what she said,” just because they heard it around and thought it was cool. Awkward.

What used to be the private play area for youngish adults has now been invaded by the somewhat older adults who raised them. Welcome to the dilemma of the thousands, increasing in number every day, of kids—ranging in age from teens to 30s—whose parents have joined Facebook.

One user, who requested to be called “Arthur,” noted that his wife had accepted his mother’s friend request (“she didn't need another reason to fight with her mother-in-law”), but that his mother was “monumentally hurt” to have been denied as a friend, and now makes snide comments about it. “I like to keep my mother out of my professional and personal life, and make it clear that there are boundaries. My mother does not understand boundaries.”

While many are appalled by this trend, a stalwart few seem strangely calm. Comedian Josh Rachlis knows that he’s supposed to say that it’s creepy to have parents on Facebook, but instead asks, “Shouldn't everyone be allowed to socialize and keep in touch and enjoy themselves?” He also sees a pragmatic side: “If your parents are on there, they can see what you're up to and you don't have to write them separate emails all the time updating them.”

Industrious web content producers and LA locals Erika Brooks Adickman and Jeanne Leitenberg decided to take their frustration with this new trend to the internet, founding a site titled Oh Crap! My Parents Joined Facebook.

In this LAist interview, the site’s creators spoke candidly about the essential questions: Who taught parents to use the internet, anyway? And why are they here on Facebook?

LAist: Why would parents join Facebook? To throw sheep at their kids or turn them into zombies? Are they spying on us? Or is there some other cosmic reason why they're all joining now, like global warming, or Obama's call for change?

JL: Our parents aren’t as uncool as we think they are. In their minds they’re still young and hip, and trying to know what’s in and what’s out. Parents join Facebook to keep up with the trends. I believe it comes more from the “my kid is my friend” mentality rather than a way to keep tabs on their children. These are parents trying to be “the cool parents.”

EBA: It’s the same reason my mom got bangs, ‘cause someone told her she wasn't too old for them.

JL: When we poke our peers it's usually a form of flirtation. When our moms poke us it probably means she doesn't like our haircut. It's become a new form of nagging.

How did you found the site? When did you realize this was a trend worth documenting/ridiculing?

JL: Erika and I were in Starbucks and I had just received a friend request from my aunt: the second family member that week who had joined. The Leitenbergs were taking over Facebook! I told Erika that my dad had recently updated his relationship status to “married.” It was weird seeing it printed online: “Jack is now listed as married.” My parents had been married for 26 years; once it was on Facebook it was finally really official. Erika thought there could be an awesome way to showcase parents’ funny activity on Facebook. And thus My Parents Joined Facebook was born.

EBA: It was purely selfish on my part: I wanted in on the action. I had pretty much banned my mother from joining Facebook and my dad has no interest, but I wanted in on the embarrassing moments. The whole commentary on the etiquette of social networking and the generational gap came later; I just wanted to see if people would send us their stories.

How do you know each other? What about your previous endeavors gave you the experience/inspiration to start this site together?

EBA: I run a pop culture web series and blog called Pop Waffle so I had the insight of organizing the site and setting it up.

JL: Erika and I met through a friend and as luck would have it, just happened to live on the same street in Los Angeles. We bonded over “The Hills,” “Mad Men” and “Gossip Girl.” This past December we even traveled to Israel together with Birthright Israel (a heritage program for Jews ages 18-26).

EBA: It's true. Not only do we share the same postal worker, but a love for one of my favorite past times: talking while watching TV. We also share the same sense of humor and can go head-to-head for the worst "why me" mortifying moments which seem to happen almost daily.

What are some of your pop culture influences?

EBA: I believe our humor comes from being way into pop culture-ish things that were way too mature for us as kids - we were way into SNL way too early, both loved “Daria” and “The Babysitters Club” (both the movie and the short-lived TV series).

JL: We were both huge fans of “Ghostwriter” and both had major crushes on Alex. Our hatred for Tina was purely out of jealousy. I think we can also credit “Blossom" for helping to shape the people we are today.

Do you troll Facebook for parental activity, or do you rely on readers to submit their parental dysfunction for your entertainment?

JL: At first we were using stuff from our own families and friends. Now we get submissions. And a lot of them! We only wish we could post all of the ones we receive.

EBA: I'm sure if we hit a dry spell we'll poach our own relatives, but that doesn't look like it will happen any time soon. I think people love seeing their own posts with our captions. There's something rewarding about not just being a voyeur but a participant.

What's the most preposterous/hilarious parental posting you've seen since launching the site?

JL: My personal favorite is a status update one reader sent us, in which his mother described being “hot in a flushy sort of way.” Facebook users never really had to see menopause updates before, but now that our parents have inhabited this medium we are being constantly subjected to things like this. It’s totally weird and TMI! But since it’s our parents, we just have grin and bear it, and love them for their adorable trying ways.

EBA: I love the ones that point out the generation gap. Like when one Facebook user says, "say hi to your mom" and the dad replied, "whose mom are you saying hi to?" It's a modern version of "turn that blasted rock n’ roll down". But honestly, it's like asking me to pick a favorite episode of “30 Rock”: they’re all so good in their own way. My favorite thing is to open our Gmail account and see what new stuff people have for us.

The real name of the site is "Oh Crap. My Parents Joined Facebook." Why did you leave "oh crap" out of the URL? [It's the shorter myparentsjoinedfacebook.com]

EBA: Cause people on the internet are lazy. Sometimes I even think that myparentsjoinedfacebook is too long. We saved you guys typing six letters. You're welcome.