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Facebook through the generations: Family uses social media to communicate, stay in touch

Al Juhnke, left, of Willmar and his grandson Zeke play on Grandpa’s iPhone over the holidays. Three (soon to be four) generations of the Juhnke family use Facebook and other social media to communicate and stay in touch, since they all live in different areas of the country. Submitted photo1 / 2
Zac Juhnke and his son, Zeke, play on their iPads. Three (soon to be four) generations of the Juhnke family use Facebook and other social media to communicate and stay in touch, since they all live in different areas of the country. Zac Juhnke lives in the Washington, D.C., area, while his parents still live in Willmar. Submitted photo2 / 2

Claire Juhnke’s family is spread out across the country. At times, they’re not even on the same continent. They stay in touch through the traditional phone calls and emails, but they have also added another layer to their communication: Facebook.

“It’s a really nice way to keep up with everybody’s lifestyle and activities,” said Juhnke, of Willmar. “Then when we actually see each other next, we can quickly pick up from the places we were online.”

Claire Juhnke and her family were early adopters of Facebook and the world of social media. Her daughter joined the site in 2005 and encouraged her to join as well.

Fast forward eight years, and even most of the extended family is now on Facebook, including Claire Juhnke’s siblings, cousins and even her 80-year-old mother and mother-in-law.

Her mother-in-law, Marlys Juhnke, started using Facebook five years ago, primarily as a way to stay in touch with her children and grandchildren. She now checks Facebook every day, usually spending a half hour on the site.

“It’s become an everyday part of my life,” said Marlys Juhnke, who lives in Upsala. “I don’t do a lot of posting myself, but I read other posts and answer them.”

A few of Marlys’ grandchildren almost post too much personal information on Facebook, she said. She doesn’t feel comfortable sharing that much on the social media site.

“Sometimes, they do share too much. It’s almost like a public diary,” Marlys Juhnke said. “You wonder why they put all those things on there for everyone to read. But they are at an age where they know what they’re doing.”

Claire’s daughter and Marlys’ granddaughter, Shannon Juhnke, makes sure that she’s careful about what she puts on Facebook. She has extra privacy settings in place for co-workers and people that she’s not as close with, so they can’t see everything on her wall.

“I try to avoid putting too much out there,” Shannon Juhnke said. “I don’t have anything on Facebook that I need to be concerned or embarrassed about. But I have taken down a couple of pictures before, or I’ve told a friend if I’m uncomfortable with something they posted on my wall.”

After graduating from the University of Minnesota-Morris in 2009, Shannon Juhnke moved to the Washington, D.C. area. Being on Facebook helps her stay connected not only with her family, especially her cousins in Minnesota, but with old friends as well.

“It’s a good way to keep in touch with what’s going on in people’s lives,” she said. “But I consider Facebook an additional way to contact people, not a replacement. Sometimes I’ll see a post on Facebook, and I’ll remember that I need to call that person. It’s helped me stay in touch with a lot of people that I wouldn’t be in touch with as much otherwise.”

Shannon’s brother, Zac Juhnke, also lives in the Washington, D.C. area with his wife and 2-year-old son, Zeke. To keep family back in Minnesota updated, Zac Juhnke posts pictures on Facebook of Zeke and has also shared video of the toddler taking his first steps, reading a book or playing in the car.

“I’ll just sit and hit the replay button 10 times and watch him,” Claire Juhnke said. “I wouldn’t experience those moments if I weren’t on Facebook. I would still get photos, but I wouldn’t see him growing — not like that.”

Without Facebook, Claire Juhnke knows it would be much harder for her transcontinental family to stay in touch. She credits much of their tightknit family dynamic to the social networking site.

“I do consider us closer as a family because of Facebook,” Claire Juhnke said. “Sometimes when you don’t see someone for a while, it’s almost like you don’t know where to start when you see them again. You usually start with, ‘How are you?’ But on Facebook, if you’ve been following and people have been posting, you already know how they are. You can start with those more personal conversations.”

Ashley White

Ashley White is the community content coordinator for the West Central Tribune. Follow her on Twitter @Ashley_WCT.

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