Edo the Reliable ("Amin")

You Call This Extended?

In Social Networks on October 1, 2011 at 10:49 am

Facebook just extended the list of family relation types – actually, doubled it. Users can now select any of 32 relations to other users.

When attributing family relations first became possible on Dec 5, 2010 (see post), it was limited to 16 direct blood relations. We now have 32 relation types, or 33 if you count the double inclusion of a “partner” (bug or feature?).

The newly added relations are those that are created by marriage, but are not “relaciones de sangre” – e.g.  husband, wife, and various in-laws.

Why is Facebook expanding the available types? This might give a clue.

The Case of the Man with Two Mothers

A mother I know was recently surprised to discover her son’s Facebook profile had two mothers listed. One was herself, the other – the mother of her son’s wife. It appears that her daughter-in-law’s mother wanted to express inclusion towards the profile owner, but didn’t have an appropriate option. The closest to son-in-law was son – and what son-in-law in his right mind would refuse a request from one’s mother-in-law?

That a woman in her 50’s, who is not a Facebook power user, would insist on naming in-law relations, illustrates the variety and urgency of needs Facebook has on its plate since it brought the “Family” cat out of the bag.

The Case of the Distant Relative

But relations can be more distant than son-in-law. How distant is distant? I was recently invited to a girl’s Bar Mitzva (the female form is actually Bat Mitzva, celebrated at 12, often cutified by the almost-nearly-teens to Bat Mitzvush). My connection to the Bat Mitzva girl: she is daughter of sister of husband of daughter of my sister.

That’s a five-step, non-blood relation. Pretty distant, you say? Well, it might be distant for you, but perhaps one treasures five-degrees-apart relations more if one’s family, like mine, was cut in half by a holocaust.

The kid’s mother now wants to designate our relation in Facebook – but she can’t.  Too distant to indicate as family as per the current version.

To me, this isn’t a trivial technicality. Although her family lives abroad, in Europe, the Bat Mitzva event took place in Israel at significant effort and cost. It was worth it, because there’s a “roots”  sense to celebrating a Jewish rite of passage in Israel, among family. So, you can see why seeing a distant uncle from Israel, who went to your Bar Mitzva, on your mom’s wall, can mean a thing or two. it can help you recall your own roots that are partly in the Old Country. This is how many call their homelands, and the emotional charge is nothing like “my Mom lives in Idaho”.

Coming from the Middle East, I wonder whether my brethen (in the extended sense)  are happy with the Facebook family relationship types. Are 32 types enough to describe a family? a tribe? a hamula – a clan thatoften extends beyond lineage? an ahl? What about other world kinship systems and “all our relations“?

And what would Dunbar do?

PS – My latest Facebook friend calls me in RL “uncle” – but it’s the wider, African tribe sense. In fact, he’s but the son of brother of an ex-girlfriend, to whose wedding I went last week. And this December, I’m looking forward to a visit from a friend, the first wife of the deceased (second) partner of my ex-wife. We live on different continents, yet we’re both members of a closed Facebook group we call The Tribe, a reflection of a real-world group spanning three continents and including 30 people who date back many years. But don’t get me wrong – we’re just friends.

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  1. ועל זה יאמר:
    גרושתי הגרושה, מגרושי השניים……
    🙂

    ובלי שום קשר, כל מילה: בסלע
    נהניתי לקרוא. תודה

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