When Facebook Says Your Friends Are Hanging Out Without You

Navigating the intersection of etiquette and technology.
Jan. 17 2012 3:06 PM

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (Transcript)

What to do when Facebook reveals your friends didn’t invite you to an event.

Farhad Manjoo:  Is everyone hanging out without me?

Emily Yoffe:  I’m Emily Yoffe, Slate’s Dear Prudence advice columnist.

Farhad:  I’m Slate’s technology columnist, Farhad Manjoo. And this is Manners for the Digital Age.

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Emily: Today’s question is from a listener who wonders whether a Facebook update left his friends feeling left out. He writes, “Dear Farhad and Emily, most of my neighbors and friends know each other, hang out often and are also Facebook friends. Tonight my wife and I are going out with two couples from this circle. We all have little kids so this is a big deal. The wife of one of the couples who is an avid Facebooker, promoted our date with this wall posting: Can’t wait for our triple date night with John, Kelly, Jane, and Bill. Watch world we got sitters and we will be out on the town to at least 9pm.

In response several of my wife’s friends have since posted, ‘Have fun’ or texted ’Oh, you’re going out tonight? That’s so nice.’ I think these messages are innocuous but my wife swears there are tones of ‘I wish you had invited me’ and  ‘I feel left out.’ Is she reading too much into this or was the original post insensitive to our friends who weren’t included? Did our Facebook posting friend exercise bad judgment?” Signed, Post Paranoia

Okay, Farhad, you’re still in the babysitting age. What do you think?

Farhad: Oh man, I wish I could spend the whole night out on the town until 9pm.  I think there’s nothing wrong with this. This is fine and I think that this guy’s wife is paranoid. Those responses sound nice. It sounds like they’re congratulating you on getting out of the house. I guess what I don’t understand about this is what’s so bad about going out with some of your friends and not all of your friends? That’s how people go out all the time. I don’t think there is anything wrong with promoting that you’re going out. That’s the whole point of social networks.

Emily: Oh yippie! We totally disagree. To me the whole posting  “We’re going out with Kelly” reminds me of when my daughter was in kindergarten and kids started to have birthday parties and there had to be some rules in place so people didn’t get their feelings hurt. Number one: don’t bring the invitations to school. Number two: either invite everyone or invite fewer than half the kids because it just hurts not to be included.

I am not an avid Facebook user so I truly do not understand the necessity to post every jot and tiddle of your life. I think there may be a male/female continuum on this, because you read these comments exactly as the husband does. I read them as the wife and there’s a little bit of a needle – “Oh thank you so much for letting us know you guys going to have so much fun and we didn’t make the cut.”

Farhad: Look, I wouldn’t do this. I agree with you. I think there is no reason to post what you’re doing tonight with Bob and Ted. But in this Facebook world, people do this all the time. I think it’s become accepted practice, so anything you do with some of your friends is not a secret anymore, especially if you’re going out with some avid Facebookers, which this person is.

I think you should just accept that what you’re doing is going to be public and people are going to comment on it. I wouldn’t post it because I don’t think it’s that interesting. But maybe for someone who never goes out, it’s a big deal to be able to do so and it’s the highlight of their month. For that person it’s fine. It wouldn’t bother me to see one of my friends post this. I wouldn’t be jealous and I wouldn’t feel like I was left out.

Emily: What you just said comes right up against what we’re doing here. Where do manners intersect with new technology? What you said is kind of like saying once cell phones became ubiquitous, “Look people are going to be carrying on personal conversations absolutely everywhere and now. There’s no limit to it. When you’re in restaurants, on trains, walking down the street everyone is going to be yakking to an unseen person. Get over it.”