Shayne on You: Can you unfriend relatives?

Dear Maggie,

My family is having a meltdown and it’s 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 they’re all taking pot shots with every “status update” they post, and it’s horrifying. I’m embarrassed to have their nonsense popping up on my page all the time, and I don’t know how to deal with it. Can you “unfriend” 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 I’ve 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 Sally’s behavior on Facebook. Won’t Sally be ashamed, then! (No, she’ll be defensive and start posting about Susie’s behavior.) Won’t all Susie’s friends take her side and prove her right! (Only if they’re 13. Adults will feel squirmy and back quietly away.) Won’t 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. Susie’s 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 you’re 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, it’s 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 we’re on the topic, it’s 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 don’t. It’s not cute, it’s not funny, it’s just sad. So knock it off.

Maggie

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