What’s my obligation to keep up on social media?

by DGO Web Administrator

I am a teacher at a large high school, and typically only interact with those in my wing of the school. On the first day we returned from break, I bumped into “Polly” while signing in and cheerfully asked, “How was your [vacation]?” She glared at me and stomped away. I’m sure I gave her a frown in return at the perceived rudeness. A week or so later, I remembered the incident and looked her up on Facebook. We were friends, but I had muted her postings since she posted quite frequently.I then discovered that she suffered a late (seven months in) miscarriage. She had many detailed posts of her anguish.I felt TERRIBLE that I may have triggered this reaction from her.Since then, I occasionally run into her at school and she is friendly but distant. My question is, is it worth bringing up months after the fact to apologize?And what is my responsibility to be aware of people’s personal issues if we are social media friends but I do not actually pay attention to their posts?Regret

You have zero obligation to be aware of what people post on social media.

Think about it – you can’t go on vacation? Take a break from Facebook for a while? Or quit it entirely? What if the algorithm filters out someone because you unwittingly went for a certain period of time not liking or commenting on someone’s posts, or just missed them as a matter of timing. That’s your fault?

There’s no logical thread you can follow here that takes you to the point of obligation. You’re going to miss some news sometimes. That’s it.

So if Polly has distanced herself as a way to punish you for your faux pas, then Polly is in the wrong.

Polly was also, I think we can agree, grieving and hormonal after a horrific loss – that’s a stillbirth, not a miscarriage – so she gets a complete pass on reacting emotionally.

And it would have been a compassionate gesture on your part to follow up with her immediately after you realized your faux pas: “I only just learned of your loss – I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to be insensitive.” Particularly if you had put it in a condolence card or note, so she could respond to it in the privacy of her home.

So much time has passed now that I don’t think you can mention it without making two apologies, one for the unintentional ignorance and another for the non-response once you found out your friend was in mourning. Again, this should be in writing, to give her room to compose herself.

Also consider: If you don’t intend to get any closer to Polly than you’ve been, then it might make more sense to leave her alone than to dredge up your months-old mistake for the sole purpose of returning to the same arm’s-length acquaintance as before. This friendly-but-distant place might be right where you belong.

In an insecure and jealous moment, I unfriended the husband, a nice man, of a more-or-less friend of mine; “frenemy” might be too strong here. She lives a charmed life by every account, and ONCE AGAIN was going to hang with her L.A.-area besties from years past at one woman’s luxury digs in Mexico. He posted how “proud and happy” he was that she had this great group of friends to hang with after all these years blah blah blah.I want to hurl when spouses go on glowingly about each other on Facebook, so I just – snapped(ish) and unfriended him.My life is not even close to theirs. They have a longtime marriage, money, great jobs, nice house, take awesome vacations, and I am divorced, haven’t dated in years, not rolling in money, but have many blessings, it’s true.But she is not the nicest person in the world, and never acknowledges her many blessings and advantages. She is the opposite of humble. So, yes, it was a weak moment for me.A while back I saw them together, and I think he knows I unfriended him. He looked at me in a strange way. Should I write him a note and apologize, and tell him why? Forget the whole thing? I see them both from time to time. Any advice?Facebook Blunderer

I’m sure there’s a more nuanced or complicated answer to be written here, but you don’t really like these people much, so don’t bother with any efforts at remediation. Sounds like blocking the maybe-frenemy would have a peace-of-mind dividend, too.

I mean, it’s Facebook unfriending, not TPing their yard.

I suppose I could also recommend some work on the “insecure and jealous” stuff, including some soul inventory; is “longtime marriage, money, great jobs, nice house, take awesome vacations” really the be-all? I mean, one of them is “not the nicest person in the world,” and the other is maritally yoked to that. And social-media-bragging it. Yuck. So it wouldn’t be a stretch to suggest taking comfort in your own choices, and considering that you traded material comfort for things you value more.

I dunno. Your accounting may differ, but if “forget the whole thing” is genuinely on the table, I’d grab it.

I wonder: If these were nicer people, then would you be happier for them?

Several months ago, I was placing an order through my Amazon Prime account and a co-worker asked if she could order some things as well. Since I had my items coming to the office, I said it was fine for her to add some things to my order – at least it would save on the number of boxes coming to the same location.Now she regularly asks to use my account so she can get the free two-day shipping. A one off when I was ordering something as well seemed fine to me, but now I feel like she’s taking advantage and I’m enabling her to cheat the company. Having allowed it, though, how do I put a stop to her use of my membership?Primed

You say: “This was fine for a shipment or two, but I’m not comfortable with it as a regular thing.” Because choosing not to let people take advantage of you is something you’re allowed to do.

Carolyn Hax is a syndicated advice columnist for The Washington Post. She started her advice column in 1997, after five years as a copy editor and news editor in Style and none as a therapist. Email her at [email protected].


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