Before my mom passed away last year, she maintained an active Facebook account. My father did not. Recently, my 72-year-old father started using my deceased mom's account to post photos with and comment on status updates of two 20-something women that he is now dating. Besides the general queasiness induced by his generational incest, it's extremely disconcerting to log on and see that my dead mother "likes" a photo of a hot girl in a bikini who is more than a decade younger than me. I've told my dad to get his own Facebook account, but he continues to use Mom's. What should I do?
She Said: Though it’s beyond disconcerting for you to witness this scenario, my guess is that your dad feels technologically overwhelmed at the idea of creating a new FB account and is simply using your mom’s out of convenience. If you’re close enough to him, both geographically and emotionally, then the next time you visit, tell him, “Dad, please let me help you set up your own Facebook account. I’m glad you’re online and socializing with people but it’s weird and hurtful to see mom’s name every time I log on. We can do it right now in 10 minutes.” If he’s open to it, be ready to follow through and help him fill in his information, photos, and send friend requests to the people he already knows via your mom’s account. Then ask him whether he’d like your mom’s page deactivated, permanently deleted, or memorialized. Given that he knows her password, you can do either of the first two instantly, but you must contact Facebook to memorialize the page.
If your dad continues to resist, you have two options. You can still request that Facebook memorialize the page, since it is their policy to do so for deceased members, and then deal with your dad’s confusion and/or anger. Or you can simply unfollow, block, or even unfriend your “mom,” and stop being reminded of your dad’s grief-induced shenanigans.
He Said: Since you are every bit as ethically (if not legally) entitled to control your mother's legacy, insist that your father cease and desist from using her profile for his own purposes. If he resists, report the abuse of the profile to Facebook, which will memorialize it, essentially deactivating the account. Once you have helped him set up his own page, however, resist the urge to become his FB friend. Your father deserves his privacy, whether that means going on rants or commenting on young women. If you can overcome your queasiness, you might realize that it is healthy for him to show interest in others and learn to carry on without your mother. Given his age and the trauma of losing his longtime partner, it is hardly surprising that he's turned to younger women for companionship.
Curious? Confused? Heartbroken? Send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org