Emily Yoffe: Don’t you just hate it when people post photos of their food on Facebook? I’d never post something so gauche.
Farhad Manjoo: I’m Slate’s technology columnist, Farhad Manjoo.
Emily: I’m Emily Yoffe, Slate’s Dear Prudence advice columnist. And this is Manners for the Digital Age. This week’s question comes from a woman who feels undermined when her Facebook friend posts comments that seem to mock her own status updates.
She writes, “Dear Emily and Farhad, I just reconnected with an old college acquaintance named Anne on Facebook. Anne is known for her biting humor, which I usually appreciate. However, recently I’ve noticed that she sometimes seems to get inspiration for her acerbic posts from my status updates. For example, I once exuberantly posted about a cooking success bragging about how I had made the world’s best lasagna. A few minutes after my post, Anne posted a status update scornfully commenting on how ridiculous and annoying it was when people exaggerated their achievements.
“Coincidence? Perhaps. However, this has happened several times now. Most recently, I posted a link to a humanitarian cause and a few minutes later, Anne posted not only on Facebook but on her personal blog that while so many people want her to pay attention to their causes, she is fulfilled by concentrating on her home and child.
“While she never says she is responding to me. I’m certain that her status updates are disguised responses. I would prefer she simply speak directly to me so I could respond. What do you think about this?” Signed, Just Say It To My Face, Not On Your Facebook Status.
Farhad, what do you think?
Farhad: Hold on a second, I’m just finishing reading this terrible advice column on the web.
Emily: It’s not called Dear Prudence, is it?
Farhad: Oh, I don’t know – let’s leave that vague. I guess I wonder about this relationship. Does she have a problem with Anne? Have they had some kind of previous beef that would lead her to believe that all these acerbic posts are about the letter writer?
It seems like if that’s not the case, these are the common things for people to say on Facebook, both “I made great lasagna” and also “I hate it when people post about their own achievements” like that. It seems like there’s no reason to believe these post are about her. She seems to be taking it too personally.
Emily: At the risk of sounding like Anne, do other people really care that you made a great plate of lasagna? Okay, that’s a different issue.
I think the key thing here is she said she just reconnected with this old college acquaintance. So, it really sounds to me like this may be a case of wanting to un-connect from this old acquaintance. I don’t necessarily think she’s being paranoid. If it were one instance, okay. But it does sound like Anne may be rather passive-aggressive about this.
I think there’s an answer in technology. Can’t you corral Anne into one of those boxes where she can only see your pretty face or something, that she’s not seeing your status updates?
Farhad: Yeah, she can certainly do that on Facebook. She can prevent Anne from seeing all of her updates. I said that she may be paranoid about this. I think she is. But on the other hand, Anne’s posts do sound pretty annoying, so I see no reason to keep connected with her. Anne is clearly lashing out at someone – if it’s not the letter writer, it’s someone else. That kind of stuff it just gets old, and so I don’t understand why he’d want to continue this friendship.
Emily: And the letter writer says, “I prefer that Anne just address this with me directly.” No, you wouldn’t. You don’t want your old college acquaintance saying, “Who gives a flying one about your lasagna? And you know what? My child is more important to me than starving children around the world.” You don’t want to have that conversation.
Farhad: You know, I hate people who hate other posts on Facebook. It seems like if you don’t like somebody’s post, you’re just wasting everyone’s time by posting that you hate someone else’s post about their lasagna or about their cooking achievement or their humanitarian cause.
It’s so easy to ignore the flood of stuff that comes at us on Facebook and Twitter that it’s so much easier on you psychically to just say nothing, and on everyone else to not have to hear how you hate someone else’s post. That’s what annoys me about Anne. She’s going around hating other things.
Emily: I totally agree. Another part of Facebook – one of the beauties of it – is that it brings people back into your life and one of dismal things about it is that it brings people back into your life, and you often realize there was a reason this acquaintance dropped out of my life, and that is the preferable status for this person. So, that may be the preferable status for this person.
Farhad: Yeah. I say “un-friend” Anne.
Emily: Sounds good. Send us your questions about shifting etiquette in the online age. Our address is firstname.lastname@example.org
Farhad: You can also join our Facebook page where we carry on the conversation throughout the week. Go to www.Facebook.com/digitalmanners.
Emily: And we’ll talk to you next time on Manners for the Digital Age.