Friend Freaks Out on Facebook

Dear Robin:

Long time lurker, first time writer!  I love love love your blog!  Here is my problem: my best friend (in my humble opinion) posts inappropriate things on Facebook.  For example, she recently had a big fight with her ex-husband over unpaid child support, and she actually detailed their argument on her wall.  She also posts some pretty personal things about her dating life, and photos that would seem better suited for a men’s magazine than a social networking site.

I’m worried about my friend and how this could impact her life.  She is currently unemployed and looking for a new job, and if I was thinking about hiring her I’d definitely reconsider after looking at her page.  She is a very stable and intelligent woman but if you only judged her on what she posts on Facebook, you might not get that impression AT ALL!!!  

How can I tell my friend to stop using Facebook in this way without hurting her feelings or our friendship?  Thank you so much for answering my question!

-Concerned

Dear Concerned:

Thank you both for your compliments on my blog and submitting this question.  This is something I have bumped into over and over again and it’s a hot topic amongst my three friends.  Well, two.  I had a bit of a spat yesterday over an unreturned sweater with Friend #3, but she was my least favorite anyway so it doesn’t matter.  

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By the way, I am now taking applications for Friend #3 position, so if anyone out there is interested please email me your resume and a photo of your shoe collection.  I’ll start interviews in about a week.  You bring the wine, I’ll provide the Me.

Anyway, back to your friend with the over-sharing problem.  I have a few general thoughts and then I’ll get to my advice on how to deal with this issue.

Social media is a blessing and a curse, but I think the curse part outweighs the blessing part for many.  Now that each of us has our own soapbox, many feel the need to let the world know exactly how they are feeling exactly at the moment they are feeling it, no matter how personal or perhaps inappropriate such public sharing may be.

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Some of us have lived our lives feeling powerless and unheard, and Facebook can be a way to finally shout out our reality to the world – a world that perhaps has been unkind and unconcerned about our feelings in the past, whether those feelings are good (in which case we’d love an “atta girl!”) or bad (in which case we’d love an “I’m sorry you are going through this”).

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You say you are concerned about how future employers may view your friend if they look at her Facebook page.  I suggest you ask her about her security settings and whether people who aren’t her “friends” can view all of her material.  Another way to do this without asking her directly is to create a fake account and go to her page to see what is viewable.  This is the AskDesCamp Stealth Facebook Page Stalk, and it works like a charm, plus you get to avoid an uncomfortable conversation and I’m all for that.

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Let’s assume your friend’s Facebook is pretty open and her rants/musings/updates are public and therefore anyone can see them.  I think a very gentle warning to her might be in order.  For example, you could say:

“Hey, I loved your status update about your ex-boyfriend giving you the herpes and your revenge of keying his pickup in the parking lot of the strip club where his new 18 year old girlfriend works, but I wonder if that company you just interviewed with might see that?  I know most companies do a little digging before they hire people…”

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She’ll probably consider adjusting her security settings at that point, unless her goal is to remain unemployed.

If your friend has already locked down her page so these posts are seen only by her friends, you are faced with the dilemma of how to address the issue with her without making her feel stupid, embarrassed, ashamed and angry.  This is a very tricky proposition, but here’s my AskDesCamp Advice By Numbers suggestion for you:

1. Make a date with your friend.  Purchase wine.  As you should know from reading this blog, spirits are always a key ingredient of initiating difficult conversations.  If you have the right amount, you will feel unencumbered enough to say what you need to say, even though you are facing a tough talk.  If you both have too much, neither one of you will remember anything and you can pretend nothing happened.  Problem solved!

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2. Be nice and don’t come off as judge-y.  Express that you’ve read her postings and you are concerned about what’s going on in her life.  Check in with your friend, and ask her if she is OK.  She may very well not be OK, and isn’t that more important for you to know and react to than what she posts on Facebook?

3. Finally, tell her that she may want to reconsider how much she shares on her page.  If this were me, I would bring up some bullshit legal mumbo-jumbo about possible libel allegations from her ex.  I’d also mention she wouldn’t want her kids to see this stuff about their dad.  Again, be gentle and non-confrontational, because:

4. The only thing worse than a person who over-shares on Facebook is someone who thinks they should dictate to others how to use the site.

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I saw this on Pinterest, the lonely bored housewife’s best friend, and I thought: what kind of an asshole thinks this way?  First of all, the grammar is all wrong.  Second of all, who defined what belongs on social networking sites and when?  Because I’d surely like to know.

Look, I get that you are worried about your friend, but at the end of the day this is HER page upon which she can post whatever she wants.  You told me when we chatted that her kids are 3 and 5 so I doubt they are reading mommy’s Facebook page.  For some reason (and assuming you have established in Step 2 that she is OK), your friend finds it cathartic to voice her troubles on her page.

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If you don’t like it, unfriend her and tell her you just don’t want to see her doing that stuff in such a public forum.  But aren’t these things she is probably sharing with you anyway, since the two of you are so close?  So what exactly is your issue?

You seem concerned that she is making a fool of herself, but she seems to have no shame in this department and thus isn’t embarrassed by what she exposes about her life to the world.  For some of us, the occasional rant is nothing to be embarrassed about: i

t is our choice and we are free to say what we like in whatever manner suits us.

I’m totally not talking about me, by the way.  I am a very circumspect and discreet person who choses to remain an enigma to the world.

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It really isn’t your place to decide what people should and should not post on their social media accounts.  How would you feel if someone said that your Facebook page sucked because you had too many photos of your precious children and updates on your involvement with the PTA, and nothing actually interesting?  

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Some may even call you boring, which I decided long ago is the greatest sin of all (if I believed in sin, which I don’t, but that’s another blog entirely).

Concerned, lighten up a bit.  Check in with your friend, make sure you are there for her if she needs anything, broach the subject as it relates to employment opportunities if your friend has everything “public,” and if I were you, I would just leave the rest alone.  You are not the arbiter of what belongs on Facebook: each user decides for themselves.  

As I said, if you don’t like it, unfriend her.  But still be her friend, because a Facebook friend is often no friend at all.

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-Robin

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. loretta

    Hi Robin, I love reading your blog, and I am amazed with your thoughtful and inteligent advice. You always make me see another side to something w/o offense like religion. Thank you. I hope you will accept an apology for my harsh words from the kjo post on Jenn. I post as remi. I am sorry 🙁

    1. askdescamp

      Loretta/Remi: no worries! Thank you so much for being a reader. Can you share my blog with your friends? Perhaps post a link on Facebook? It would mean the world to me. Thank you!!!

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