Shayne on You: Can you unfriend relatives?

Dear Maggie,

My family is having a meltdown and itís all because of Facebook! It all started when one of my cousins posted about another one, saying something not so nice, and then the whole family started jumping in and taking sides. Now theyíre all taking pot shots with every ďstatus updateĒ they post, and itís horrifying. Iím embarrassed to have their nonsense popping up on my page all the time, and I donít know how to deal with it. Can you ďunfriendĒ your relatives? I think we could use an etiquette primer on social networking sites. Can you help?



Signed,

Too Connected

Dear Connected,

Ah, a topic Iíve been dying to talk about. Why do some people air their private squabbles in such a public forum? Susie feels offended or wounded, and can hardly wait to expose the Sallyís behavior on Facebook. Wonít Sally be ashamed, then! (No, sheíll be defensive and start posting about Susieís behavior.) Wonít all Susieís friends take her side and prove her right! (Only if theyíre 13. Adults will feel squirmy and back quietly away.) Wonít everyone finally see what the awful Sally has put poor Susie through? (Yes, the same stuff someone has put everyone through at one time or another. Susieís not unique and no one cares about her private bickering.)

Would any of us stand in the middle of a shopping mall, having a loud argument? Would we expect bystanders to start cheering us on? Of course not. (Or if you answered YES, then youíre one of those rare specimens who aspire to be guests on Jerry Springer. This is not a compliment.)

So, to anyone who needs telling, no, itís not OK to snipe at friends or relatives, or even enemies or rivals, on public bulletin boards, blogs, networking sites, or group email lists. Do it in private. If you want it electronic, then do it through private e-mail.

And while weíre on the topic, itís equally unwise to post photos of yourself with a beer (or cigarette or joint) in one hand, and your baby in the other, or anything stupid you did while inebriated. Just donít. Itís not cute, itís not funny, itís just sad. So knock it off.

Maggie

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