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computer-webRISMEDIA, March 5, 2009-(MCT)-Facebook is the most significant thing to happen to motherhood since the third-party telephone line. Originally the domain of college students, Facebook sucked millions of Gen Ys into the habit of routinely posting online their darkest secrets to their closest 543 “friends.”

Then the mega Internet chat room went universal.

And suddenly mothers everywhere were listening in.

Now lest somebody cast us concerned mothers as busy bodies, let me first tell you that Facebook is not like a locked diary.

Anybody who connects with anybody else on Facebook is inviting entry into their private life.

Not only that, but Facebook immersion is for the good for all.

“I hate school and everything about it,” posted one of my daughter’s friends at 1:30 one morning.

See how everybody wins? I get reminded that hating life is normal when you’re 16. My daughter gets to act like a morose teenager without her mother wanting to drag her to therapy every time she sighs.

Facebook gives me other essential insights into the normal behaviors of the entire high school junior class, stuff like who got dumped and who did the dumping, and that hooking up and being dumped can happen in the same day, not to mention post, even with the same person.

This was especially helpful recently when I noted that my daughter’s relationship status, which comes up with her prominently placed Facebook profile, had changed suddenly from “in a relationship” to “single.”

I knew right there on Facebook, that Kelly had just gotten dumped by Jake, which later supported some really good mother-to-daughter wisdom, like how everybody gets dumped sometime. I also knew to spend extra time with my daughter that night, which allowed me to reclaim at some ground as her real live, face-to-face best friend.

Like everything else, listening in on my kids’ Facebook conversations has its dark side.

My kids can get to talking some LOL computer smack, which makes me feel old and completely out of the loop, especially when the conversation regards significant events about which I haven’t a clue.

“Did you happen to leave Alif Baa here by chance? Or did you take it with you?” somebody named Zackary wrote to my eldest son, who is far from home, on a study abroad in Switzerland.

I found out via Google that “Alif Baa” is the title of a book, an “Introduction to Arabic Letters and Sounds.”

But since when is my son studying Arabic?

Facebook sometimes tells me things I might ultimately be better off not knowing.

“Today I had only Nutella and peanut butter to eat. No bread,” read my son’s post from his outpost in Geneva, at which point I posted back in all caps: “DO YOU NOT THINK YOUR MOTHER IS GOING TO READ THIS AND FREAK OUT?”

Later that day, my son and I Skyped-another communication phenomenon that allows two people to look at each other while they talk via computer, even if one of them is 4,500 miles away. At my behest, he stood up to show me how he’s lost 10 pounds in the six weeks he’s been gone, at which point I tried to hug him through the computer.

“I’m coming with provisions!” I said, de-Skyping as I hurried to make reservations with my frequent flier miles.

If it hadn’t been for Facebook, I might never be going to Europe in the almost springtime with a 50-pound box of beef jerky and ramen. My son would never be so happy to see so much American junk food in one duffel bag, oh yeah, and his mom carrying it. Yeah, Facebook! You rock! Spread the love!

Journalist Debra-Lynn B. Hook of Kent, Ohio has been writing about family life since she was pregnant with the first of her three children, in 1988.

© 2009, Debra-Lynn B. Hook
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.