My husband and I were having one of our evening chats when I told him I had noticed a huge change in one of my friends. I told him that while I wanted to believe she was one of my close friends, I was having trouble with that secure thought lately. He asked me if something had happened recently that made me feel there had been a shift. “What did you do?” he asked me. I told him that perhaps I had enforced my personal boundaries too much. Perhaps I was too old, or too boring. I had no idea. When she and I spoke it was always friendly, but the constant contact that was there had completely disappeared. It had made me reticent to continue making an emotional investment.
Then there was social media.
Social media, not in person contact, was what first tipped me off that something was amiss. She used to participate in my personal social media and my personal social media is nothing like my blog. Unless I post a link to my blog, my social media is usually just fun stuff. I don’t even do political memes, unless they’re lighthearted. Okay, sometimes I get self righteous, but it’s not often. Now she doesn’t say a word to me on social media. Not a Like, not a glance, nothing. She doesn’t comment or leave behind any clue that she’s even looked. I have asked for her opinion on items or sent her links asking her to read something, and she never responds. If I am to be 100% honest with myself, she doesn’t participate in anything to do with my life anymore. It’s like I’m invisible. When I asked her about it, she told me she’s never on there or that she’s been really busy. I want to believe this. But when I see her flash by in the Facebook Ticker liking and commenting elsewhere, I know that it’s not the reason. And yes, it hurts my feelings.
My wise husband told me this;
“In social media today it’s not about what they say to you anymore, it’s about what they don’t say, or do.”
These days social media will tell you quickly who finds you interesting enough to pay attention and interact with you, and who thinks you are an annoying bore to Unfollow and scroll past. It could even be that you’re not someone they want to be seen interacting with online. That happens too. Connecting with you on social media belies a sort of acceptance of you and who you are. If the person’s usual circle of friends don’t think you’re someone worthy of being connected to, then your friend might avoid being seen connecting with you on social media to hide from the stigma of being known as your friend. In real life they might talk to you on the phone, but online you will not be an option they even consider.
What can you do when you realize your friend is probably not really all that friendly?
As you can see, I actually said something about my concerns. Most people would never do that, but you can give it a shot. I can tell you that the person will find it easier to slightly bend the truth, than they will to just come out and tell you what they really think. The friend that will tell you the honest truth is definitely someone that feels strongly about their decision to ignore you on social media. It’s still not a friendly thing to do, but you asked, right?
The best advice my husband gave me was to continue on my social media journey with folks that do participate in my experience. Pay attention to the people that take the time to spend connecting with me on there. The person that’s not participating anymore is the one that misses out because they are the one that made a conscious decision to omit you from their circle of social media friends. Yes, it will be hurtful to see them clicking the holy Like button on other friend’s pages that are probably waaaay cooler than you could ever hope to be, but at least you know where you stand now and can move on.
It’s not just a social media thing either, What you do on social media follows you into the real world these days. People you delete from your friend list get their feelings hurt, arguments you have online bleed into your daily connection to friends, people take sides when social media becomes a bone of contention and you’re told to delete someone, or be deleted. Nasty smear campaign attacks take place that can ruin someone, or in some cases, bully them to the point they take their own life. I’ve read the articles and seen the pictures. In fact, I have suffered from full-scale social media attacks where my name has been used and threats of bodily harm have been made against my life and my family’s life.
People with evil agendas have learned quickly how to take social media and turn it into a very lethal weapon.
How do you protect yourself?
How do you save yourself from the drama and upset that goes along with being in the online world?
You protect yourself by doing your homework before accepting a friend request online these days. Do you have friends in common? Is this someone you would want to go have a beer with or hang out with outside of social media? Do you share any common interests? I accepted a friend request last week and within 24 hours someone tried to change my password! Now was it the person I just accepted a friend request from? Or another friend that decided to check my online security? Know who you’re giving a window into your life to.
If someone you already have on your friend list becomes verbally abusive or unusually mean, I delete them. It doesn’t matter to me if they apologize or promise never to do it again, people don’t change that quickly and if it happens once, it will happen again. I am not just assuming that either. I know this from online experience of giving people chance after chance, after chance. I always accept the apology though. It takes a lot for anyone to say they’re sorry, but you don’t have to be connected on social media anymore to remain friendly.
Make some rules and personal boundaries for yourself to abide by on social media and don’t waver when it comes to enforcing them. Once folks know where you stand, you’ll know where you stand with them too. That makes for a well rounded and healthy online presence, instead of something that’s going to add nothing of value to your daily life.
Make sure there is a hard and fast rule you follow everyday, about everything. My work meant seeing the general population at it’s absolute worst and most destitute, so I had to teach myself how to jettison much of what I absorbed at work everyday. My good friend’s Dad has a job where he is always taking in some intense and sometimes heartbreaking situations and this is one of his favorite things to tell you as a reminder of what’s really important;
Be careful of the things/people/situations you allow to take up space in your head.
As for my friend, it is totally her prerogative who she follows, Likes or makes comments to on social media. If I am not one of the lucky ones, then then there’s really nothing I can do except to accept her right to spend her time participating with folks she feels comfortable connecting to. There are plenty of people on social media that enjoy what I have to offer and those are the folks I’m going to allow to take up the space in my head from now on.
As always, good luck out there in Facebookland and others. Keep yourself safe by always taking care of you first, and everyone else as time permits. Remember that unless you take care of you, you can’t take care of anyone else.