DAME’s Friendkeeper gives us the lowdown on digital boundaries, and tells us how not to get caught in the middle of a business blow-up among friends.
I have a friend who is a social-media queen. She is constantly sharing her life on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter…I’m kind of terrified about this new live-streaming thing coming down the pike. Anyway, good for her, to each her own. But that’s the thing. It’s not just “her own.” When we’re hanging out together, I get roped into her sharing. All of a sudden I get notifications that I’ve been tagged on FB, people are sending me comments on Instagram, and not so flattering photos of me are floating around the Internet. I’m not gonna lie, sometimes it’s actually really fun to be part of that world, because I kind of skirt its periphery on my own and I can definitely see the appeal. Plus it’s not like I’m a super private person or anything. But on the other hand, I do like to manage my own online presence, even if that presence is usually pretty quiet. How can I tell her that without seeming like a total control-freak party pooper? And what if I end up feeling left out because of it? Man, I’m a mess.
Social (Network) Anxiety
Yes, people are in charge of their own branding and I don’t think there is anything wrong with saying you want approval before she starts tagging you willy-nilly. First of all, I believe that bad pictures on the Internet steal our souls. Someone I went to college with posted a picture of me from freshman year when I’d gained the freshmen 50. It popped up on my phone and I raced home to untag myself. Then I went to her house and while pointing at the Facebook page, slapped a rolled up newspaper against my hand and repeatedly said, “NO!” The thing is, it’s not just about unflattering pictures, although that is enough of a reason, it’s also that I don’t want my moves tracked. If I decide I’m too tired to go to a party and instead have a quiet dinner with a friend, I don’t need the person who invited me to see me out on the town. Or if I call in sick and go to the beach, you know, don’t tag me in your #margarita photos. The bottom line is private people have a right to control their image. I don’t think it sounds like you’re a controlling party pooper, I think posting someone’s picture or whereabouts without their okay is the no-no.
I have two friends who have recently gone into business together. So far it’s been working pretty well, but a recent difference of opinion has them stuck in a disagreement. And both of them have come to me to talk about it, not knowing the other one has too. I probably should’ve stopped them there, but I didn’t. And because I know them both so well, and know where each one is coming from, I feel like I could probably help them figure this thing out and mediate with each one separately so that they’re able to come to a consensus without even realizing that the other one has been, well, not necessarily talking shit, but definitely talking behind her back. But does that make me a manipulative friend? Am I just indulging some latent desire to be a conflict therapist? I guess I’m afraid it could come around and bite me in the ass, and both of them will be mad at me for not being forthright about the other. But at the same time, I already feel like I’ve done something wrong, talking with them both as if I don’t know what’s going on. Ugh! Help?
When you think about it, aren’t we all latent conflict therapists? No? Oh, well then…. Here’s the thing, unless your friends are not particularly bright, they have to know that each of them is talking to you about whatever this is. And it would have been very hard for you to say, “Hey you know, Susie already complained to me about this.” So you’ve done nothing wrong. They are both choosing to pull you into this, but unfortunately you really can’t be a secret conflict mediator, it just isn’t going to work. What you can do is tell your friends that if they are planning on staying in business together, there are going to be conflicts and they do need to figure out a way to work through them. If they want to involve you, great, but it has to be done transparently. If they don’t want to involve you, then they can’t just secretly whine about the other one to you, because that is what we real fake therapists call triangulation—where essentially they’re using you to communicate with each other and that’s not healthy for anyone. So sit them down and set them straight. And if they do want to use you, after every bit of advice you give them you must say, “Five cents please.” Good luck!
Got a platonic problem of your own that could use the Friendkeeper’s advice? Fire away: [email protected]. No situation is too uncomfortable or too small and all details are kept confidential.
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