Aw fuck, people. More stalking. Emergency kittens standing by thanks to Twitter friend and hilarious DVD-reviewer @jearl8000.
Dear Captain Awkward,
For a few months now, I have what would be defined as a “Facebook stalker” – he likes all of my pictures, all of my statuses, all of my photos, all of my comments on other people’s statuses… you get the idea, and it increases with each day. Also, he mails me at least four times a week (usually after I’ve posted a status or something of the like, so he knows that I’m online) saying the same thing – “Hey”, “Hi ” “Helloooooo”. I never respond, yet he doesn’t seem to be getting the message that I don’t want to talk to him.
Not only is it infuriating, it’s also creeping me out – it’s reached the point where he likes or comments on something within seconds of my posting it.
He’s not a particularly close friend, – in fact, I don’t really know him that well at all – but he’s someone I’ve spent time with in group outings, and all in all, he’s kind of fun to be around – however, in the viral world, he’s not so much fun. Many of my friends have questioned me about it too, and I have been informed that he’s nigh on infatuated with me (which is weird, because I don’t talk to him that much and we’ve only really hung out a handful of times.) It’s safe to assume that I have no romantic interests for him in return.
I want him to leave me alone, but I really don’t want to be horrid with him – however, I know that if I’m not assertive enough, he’ll continue to badger me, and more likely than not, increase his efforts due to what I’ve heard about him. While I don’t want to delete and block him (although that may be the best option), this is insane. A liking of my recent status is what triggered me to write to you.
Cap’n, what do I do? How do I tell him to back off – for good?
Dear Socially Confused:
The guy is making you uncomfortable because he is badgering you and territorially pissing in all the corners of your life. Why do you have to be “nice” to him? Nice is completely useless. Anger is useful. Targeted, cleansing anger.
You are very smart to recognize that his passive-aggressive boundary pushing (like where he tells your friends about his infatuation so they’ll pass it on but doesn’t tell you and give you the chance to reject him overtly) is offensive. This is the kind of shit that starts small and eventually escalates to this if not checked. Read the comments for some truly hair-raising stories about “they talked a few times and then he broke into her house and stole her underwear and maybe sent her a video about that.”
The fact that you found him to be good company at a few social gatherings and know some people in common does not mean that you have signed some contract of eternal pleasantness & cordiality. It does not give him a free pass. About anything.
What he’s doing is creepy and weird. It has the veneer of being harmless and “not that bad” that lets him maintain plausible deniability. The way you don’t answer his emails? You are actually answering his emails with SWEET DELICIOUS AWESOME SILENCE. That IS an answer. It’s an answer that says, clearly and unambiguously, “I am not interested in being email buddies.”
Go ahead and hurt his fucking feelings, is what I’m saying. Dare to disturb the universe in defense of your own comfort and safety.
Step 1: Please, please block him on Facebook, email, and all social media without warning.* And girl, lock your shit down with every possible privacy setting to make it much harder for people you aren’t close to to see what you’re up to.
Step 2: If he contacts you directly, respond once.
“While I enjoyed chatting with you at (events) in the past, I was not enjoying our online interactions. To be blunt, the way you kept emailing me even when I didn’t respond and liking all of my posts made me uncomfortable. I certainly don’t want it to be awkward if we run into each other at (events) in the future – the best way to ensure that is for you to respect my decision and back off. Please don’t message or email me again.“
Alternately, if he contacts you indirectly by making a stink with the people you know in common, tell the mutual acquaintances “I wasn’t enjoying interacting with him online so I decided to stop.” No need for gossip or further elaboration. Let the silence after the period of that sentence tell the story.
With closer friends – people you really want to have in your corner – you could say “Oh god, it’s so awkward. Dude was making me really uncomfortable by posting all over my Facebook wall and emailing me all the time, so I decided to put a stop to it. I’m sorry he dragged you into it. I’d really appreciate it if you didn’t pass on messages from him to me, or vice-versa. I think the best way is to cut off contact cold turkey and give him some time to cool down and get over things.“
If he has the bad grace to badger them about it again, they’ll handle it for you. “Dude, she said you were making her uncomfortable by being all over her Facebook wall. Chill out and let it go – she’s not into you.“
The “what about our mutual friends/social circle?” is your secret question here, I think. You don’t want to publicly humiliate the guy. You don’t want to drag friends into the middle of something. You don’t want to risk having them all side with him. The good news is that he will only be humiliated if he keeps acting like an entitled jackass. You tried to handle things directly and privately. He’ll be the one dragging them into it and badgering them. You’ll be the cool one. If any of the friends side with him and keep pleading his case, take it as good information that you don’t want to be friends with them either.
Step 3: Prepare for emotional shitstorm of WHYYYYYYYYY? or “You entitled bitch, how dare you see through my thin veneer of plausible deniability and actually call me on my stalking behavior?“ Watch out for the “How can I apologize to you properly if you won’t even talk to me?” ploy. “Friendly” dudes like this can get really nasty really fast because an exaggerated sense of entitlement to your attention usually comes with a giant heaping side of misogyny.
By “prepare” I mean please, please please relieve yourself of any guilt for maybe causing this behavior by being “mean.” He will take it as you being “horrid,” no matter what you do. If you sent a hand-calligraphed note delivered by butterflies perched on the horn of a unicorn that said “Kind sir, you’re weirding me out a bit with the constant contact. Would you consider dialing it down a bit?” and the note also contained a $20 bill, a packet of gourmet cocoa, and an iTunes gift card, he’d still have hurt feelings because what he wants (you) and what you want (NOT HIM) are fundamentally incompatible.
Let me say this another way: You’re not fucking it up by de-friending him and asking him to leave you alone. He fucked it up long ago with his behavior. If he scales up his badgering with a side of angry martyr? That’s just more proof that you want him out of your life. It’s not your fault that he learned maladaptive methods for expressing interest in women, and you don’t have to be his “how to act like a normal adult” tutor. Let COLD BEAUTIFUL DELICIOUS SILENCE be his teacher.
Which leads us to Step 4: Never respond to a communication from him again for any reason. Weather the storm. It will pass.
Step 5 (this is for everyone): You guys. You guys. We have to learn a) how to shut stuff like this down cleanly and without taking other people’s negative emotions on as our sole responsibility b) how to be a good ally when something like this happens to our friends. Be the person who can say “Hey, she said she didn’t want to talk to you. We need to change the subject right now, because you’re making an ass of yourself.” Risk the temper tantrum of the uncool guy. Review the Geek Social Fallacies – not everyone has to be friends with everyone or invited everywhere, and someone who stalks and harasses people is peeing in the pool of your friend group and getting his gross pee molecules on everyone. We can’t keep tolerating this bullshit…er, social pee… and then blaming the victims of stalking (and worse) for causing “drama.”
We also have to recognize the extent to which this stuff is gendered. Do women get fixated and need to be Told sometimes? Sure they do. But this fear of “being mean”, the fear that the social circle will abandon you or side with the stalker, the fear that your “no” won’t be respected, the extra layer of bullshit expectation that you have to be “nice,” the habit of putting other people’s comfort before your own comfort and fucking SAFETY is culturally conditioned and disproportionately carried by women.
If you’re on Team “Jeez, lighten up, he’s not that bad” then you’re part of the problem. If you’re on Team “I contacted her twice and she didn’t answer, so I guess I’d better be persistent and keep at it!“, you’re part of the problem. No answer IS an answer. It means “I don’t want to answer.” People have the right to remain silent in many, many situations. There is no relationship without reciprocity, and it is not hard for people who want to talk to you to get in fucking touch.
*P.S. When someone de-friends you on Facebook, it’s not a confusing message. It means “I don’t enjoy interacting with you here.” There’s no need to seek further explanation. If they keep seeking you out in meatspace or by other communication channels, relax, you’re cool – it was a Facebook-specific thing that rubbed them the wrong way and it’s not really important. I like a lot of people okay who I don’t want as my constant, permanent e-friends.
If they don’t seek you out with an explanation or any positive signs of continuing the friendship or whatever, respect the decision they’ve obviously made to avoid your fucking ass for the rest of time. Was is something you did? Maybe. Was it a totally subjective decision that they are allowed to make for themselves? MOST DEFINITELY. You don’t have to understand it or like it to respect it.