This is a Facebook Etiquette question. I have a friend who is really more of an acquaintance; we have met face-to-face and worked semi-together on a project a looooooooong time ago, but I haven’t seen him in years and only follow his life on social media. He is a musician in a mid-sized city where we both live and is not blowing up the charts or anything, but he’s fairly well-known.
He recently announced that he and his wife of several years are getting divorced. He did it like this: He tagged her in the post and then asked everybody he’s connected with on Facebook to share their thoughts about their divorce (with the assumption being they would all be like, “that’s bullshit!,” I guess?). Since then, he’s written a few more posts that seem to be intended to hurt or embarrass her. The tone is very much, “She doesn’t know how great she had it/I was too good for her anyway,” and his friends are mostly supportive … of him … and no one (yet) has asked him why he is airing all this dirty laundry in public if he’s such a great guy. I’m really tempted to be the first.
I’ve never actually met this woman and she has no idea who I am. Her soon-to-be-ex-husband’s musical career has expanded his friend network to the point where there are probably lots of people like me who don’t know them as a couple but who are familiar with him and his work. (And I am a female, in case that matters or changes things.)
But I am unsettled and bothered by what he is posting, and I wonder what would be the most ethical thing to do in this situation.
– Ignore him and his posts until it blows over
– Unfriend him and let him follow his course
– Point out that a “nice guy” who’s actually nice wouldn’t do this to a significant other, soon-to-be-divorced or not
Would there be any sense in doing that to show his almost-ex-wife that not everyone who reads it is swallowing this nonsense, or is that just wishful thinking on my part? I’m almost positive it’s just wishful thinking but I thought I’d ask anyway. She seems like a nice person and she isn’t responding at all to what he’s saying/doing online (probably a good move on her part), but I feel like someone (maybe a therapist?) should tell this guy he isn’t being classy or awesome right now, he’s being emotionally manipulative and possibly even emotionally abusive.
What do you think?
I really miss LiveJournal of the early 2000s sometimes. (And yes I know it still technically exists and I about Dreamwidth and alternatives, don’t @ me. The culture changed.)
PSEUDONYMS were our friends.
FILTERS were our friends. LOCKED POSTS were our friends. In ye olden days a guy could wail at the internet all day and get love/tough love from his inner circle without crossing the streams of business and friendship and family and people he met years ago (plus that one high school teacher that he’s not sure he even took a class with).
Let’s be clear: I think people have the right to tell the truth about their own experiences. Like, I don’t think you have to hide it if you are really sad or keep it a secret if someone mistreated you or pretend that things are amicable. And I’ve definitely seen some posts that made me cringe for a second and think “Welp, I have no idea what to say, time to keep scrolling.” Even if I can see a post someone made it doesn’t mean that I’m The Audience for that post, you know what I mean? (See: Every time one of my former students posts something totally Punk or Metal and then their mom comments to say “Did you remember to pack your lunch, sweetie?”) We are all That Awkward Person Who Shared Too Much sometimes, and I like to think we make allowances for people in a painful spot and forgive and overlook a ton of awkwardness.
But there’s a difference between letting friends know what’s up with you –
“Hey, X and I are splitting up, and things are very much not cool between us. I added you to this filter because I trust you and value your sympathetic ear, and I need to be able to vent about all this sometimes, but I totally understand if you don’t want to see it in your feed right now, we’ll catch up another time.”
-Versus tagging your ex so that you are not only letting everyone in their life know that you hate them now, you are basically inviting folks to flame & harass them.
If you just wanna skip straight to unfriend/unfollow/block, the Not My Circus, Not My Monkeys strategy won’t make anything worse than it already is, and you’ll give The Aggrieved an opportunity to move on to the posting-passive-aggressive-Word-Porn quotes about realizing who your REAL friends are Stage of Breakup Grief. Be free, Letter Writer! Be free!
You could say something privately, but…hrmmmm…
The thing about engaging with a direct message, something nice like:
“Hey buddy, I saw that things are real rough right now, and I’m so sorry. Have you been able to find a counselor to talk to?” or “I know everything sucks right now, but I’m worried that putting it all over Facebook is gonna be something you regret down the road”
…is that there is a 99.99% chance that he will decide that you are his brand new listening ear to dump divorce stuff on, and then you’ll have to unfriend/block him anyway after you engaged. My predictions about how likely he is to be good at considering the audience, respecting boundaries, etc. are decidedly not optimistic. And, since you mentioned that you are female, raise that “not optimistic” prediction to “HE WILL 100% START TEXTING YOU TO DUMP ALL HIS FEELINGS AND 85% TRY TO GET YOU TO TOUCH HIS NEWLY SINGLE NAKED BODY ABORT ABORT ABORT.” If you don’t have the emotional energy or closeness or desire to become his sounding board, don’t open up your direct messages to being his sounding board.
Which leaves you with “Public Engagement + Let Him Possibly Unfriend You?” as a possible course of action. Find the most recent shitpost, or wait until the next time he does this, and post something like this to the thread:
“Hey [Name] it sounds like things are really tough right now, and I’m so sorry. I really value working with you, and I’m very concerned when I see you tag [Ex] in public posts like this. You’re setting her up for bullying by your fans and yourself up for a lot of awkwardness when industry folks can see your posts about this. I hope you’ll accept my sympathies on such a tough situation as well as this gentle reminder to lock certain stuff down with privacy filters for your inner circle, especially while everything is still so raw.”
- Remind him that you know him in a work context and mention work/business/”the industry” as much as possible.
- Suggest that his is making a regrettable error rather than doing something deliberately mean (even if you suspect otherwise).
- Give him a simple and face-saving way to correct this in the future. You’re not saying “Don’t be upset” or “Don’t talk about it” just, “Consider the audience.” “Don’t cross the streams.” “Hey, you’re hurting, it happens to the best of us, but please take a second to protect your privacy so that this really sad thing isn’t following you into your business relationships long after this really awful time is over.”
Is it perfect? No. Is it gonna fix the overall situation, especially if his whole aim is to bully her? No. If you say something publicly, is he gonna transfer his anger at her to being pissed off at you for a minute? Might could. Is one of his buds gonna yell at you for sticking your nose in? Sure. Is it gonna devolve into a weird argument about how you should have said something privately instead of commenting on the public thread that is gonna make you smack your forehead with the irony of it all? You know him better than I do, but, yeah, probably.
Even if alllllllllllllllll those annoying things happen as a result of your posting, I guarantee that you are not the only person cringing at his behavior and wishing they had a way to shut it down. It’s 100% okay (and in fact recommended) if you just want to drift away, but I think you’d be doing him and everyone he knows a favor by saying something where everyone can read it before you bow out.