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Captain Awkward’s Laws of Social Media

Hi Capt,

Surely this has been asked before, but I can’t find anything this straightforward in the archive. What do you say when someone wants to be your friend but you just don’t like them?

I feel like at any given time there are a few people in my life who really want to be my friend but who I just don’t find all that interesting or fun or my cup of tea. Usually they have done nothing wrong and are in no way offensive; I just don’t like them. Usually they pursue me pretty hard, inviting me to things and politely but persistently trying to schedule friend-dates. Usually we are socially connected so there’s no ghosting on them forever (also that’s mean), and also it means bearing the burden of showing up at a real friend’s party and having not-my-friend be super excited to see me and be all “it is so awesome to see you, we need to catch up!” Ugh.

I sound like such a jerk in this email. I don’t want to be a jerk! I also don’t want to spend time with people I don’t like, and I don’t need new friends badly enough to give these folks a chance, and inevitably they are the sort of people who stubbornly refuse to notice that their invitations are never reciprocated. I also wonder why I seem to attract oblivious quasi-groupies when I am definitely not the cool one in my friend group and also I am really not that nice to people I don’t like. Like, I’m not an asshole (I hope), but no one could claim that I lead these not-friends on; it’s not like I say “omg we def need to catch up but I’m just soooo busy rn,” I’m more like “sorry, can’t make it! EOM”.

Got a script for saying “no I don’t want to hang out with you and it’s not that I’m busy, I just don’t want to” without making it a Huge Deal? Or for telling a new acquaintance that no you don’t really want to get coffee some time or friend them on Facebook? Also what’s with people friending folks on FB who they met once for like a hot second and then being offended that you don’t accept the request? Hi I don’t know you so I definitely don’t want to see your vacation photos nor you to see mine.

Maybe I am just a jerk.

Oh lordy these people probably write to advice columnists about me.

Signed,
Not Your Friend
(She/her)

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So I’m dicking around online this morning, and a friend shared some theories about a show she’s been watching (with spoilers amply warned for) and an invitation for friends who are also watching to discuss. Other people who watch the show weigh in and are happily trading theories and easter eggs and everything is fine until…

BEHOLD

THE CONTENT-FREE INTERRUPTER(S)

kool-aid-man

A janky homemade Kool-Aid Man bursts through a wall.

“I haven’t gotten around to watching that yet.”

“I watched the first episode but didn’t like it.”

“It really doesn’t seem like my thing.”

“I never really got the appeal.”

Let me translate all of those for you:

“Hello! I have literally nothing to add!”

twitchy

Eye-twitch.

I’ve written before about how tedious I find Geeky Dominance Displays where “I am a fan of X, do you also like X?” gets answered with an automatic”No, X sucks, let me tell you the reasons!” or “Cool, let me download everything I know about X into you and truly test your knowledge to see if you are a Real Fan!” Those conversations can suck but at least everyone is, like, engaged?

Nobody having a fun discussion of a thing they are intensely watching was waiting for you (not YOU-you since y’all are pretty great Internet Discussers, but, General Internet You) to weigh in just to tell us that you don’t know anything about it. It’s okay if you haven’t watched whatever it is – there’s no pop quiz! There are also no extra points awarded for class participation.

If someone in an online discussion asks you specifically if you’ve seen something or like something (you’ll know when, because they’ll use your name), then of course answer truthfully. And as a default, if you want to talk about something you haven’t seen or suspect isn’t your thing…

…maybe…

…I don’t know…

…you could…

…start with a question…?

Such as: “I haven’t watched it/I suspect it’s not my jam, but what did you like about it?

It is also okay to scroll on by casual conversations your friends about things you don’t like or care or know anything about! Your silence can be its own beautiful communication of your lack of interest! Find (or start) a separate discussion of the things you care about!

Maybe it’s also my 53-day-and-counting USA election hangover, but we’ve also got to kill the “I didn’t bother to read the article you linked but I am going to argue extensively about what I suspect is in it + unrelated matters I have opinions about” comment. If you care enough to type, care enough to read.  If you didn’t care enough to read, maybe you don’t care enough to type. See how easy that is? It’s okay if you don’t have time to read everything your friends post. It’s okay! No need to weigh in on something you haven’t read and don’t know about. Tell your friends and family and let’s make this beautiful Internet 10,000 times less tedious.

Crankily yours,

Captain Awkward & Family

P.S. Awkward Spouse would like to send out a special message to people who review online recipes like this:

This recipe is terrible! I substituted every ingredient with a different ingredient, cooked it for a different length of time using a different method, and followed not a single instruction. It didn’t turn out at all! One star!

Spouse:

thank-you-for-your-input

Sherlock slamming the door on Anderson with the text “Yes, thank you for your input.”

 

 

 

P.P.S. Awkward Cat also says Happy New Year, or, what she would say if she cared about years or internet comments, or anything at all.

Beadie

A tiny black-and-white cat with huge eyes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hey Cap,

I have a really close friendship with “Nathan”, who I’m also In Love With. We met on Twitter and talk throughout the day most days, and a long-standing online friendship and flirtation turned into a close offline friendship and flirtation and a gradual but big escalation of my feelings. Long story short, despite mutual expressions of attraction and romantic interest things never went anywhere due to what he frames as general fear and ambivalence regarding sex/intimacy/relationships. He’s essentially said that fantasising about romantic scenarios brings him solace instead of torturing him like they do me – anyway my torch still burns painfully bright, I’ve been open with him about this and he’s been understanding, so several times I’ve taken breaks from communication/hanging out to focus on sorting myself out. It’s still an issue but less so than it used to be, and we remain close friends in constant contact and we see each other when we can (we now live in separate cities).

The issue is that Nathan is very, very, very attractive and he has many, many other online admirers, many of whom run in similar Twitter circles. Our friendship/flirting is well-documented publicly on there and a lot of our thirst followers have filled in their own mad libs about our relationship or at least see me as someone safe to talk to who knows him well and regularly try to probe me for (sensitive/creepy) information about him and his availability. This brings up a lot of knee-jerk Bad feelings of sadness, regret, jealousy etc and I would like to find better ways to ward off these kinds of questions entirely. I tend to maybe go all-in with my response describing my history with him which might do the trick in getting them to shut up about it but comes off as highly territorial which is something I don’t want to be. He’s a private person and I want to protect him but I also want to protect my sensitive, foolish heart and set up some kind of flag in conversations that says “Don’t Ask Me About Nathan It’s Creepy And It Hurts”. Any scripts for how to do this? I feel like I’m stuck in a Jane Austen situation.

– Lovelorn Go-Between

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Dear Captain Awkward,

My brother died suddenly in an accident in May. He was my only full sibling. The only sibling I grew up with and lived with. I also have 3 older half siblings from my father’s first marriage- we’re not super close, we see each other at holidays and text quarterly updates. After the funeral, I had to plan my wedding happening just 8 weeks after my brother’s death. The trouble starts when I am texting with T (the oldest half sister) and say that I am having a hard time because my mother is emotionally unavailable due to her grief. T has a tense relationship with my mother and uses this moment to tell me how unreasonably angry my mother was acting when she last saw her. I am LIVID and stop responding. T says “sorry, it just made her sad.” I lose a day of wedding planning to being angry and trying to figure out how to respond. I give up and send no reply.

In the following weeks, T sends a message explaining her behaviour and then tells me that I am acting unacceptably. I tell her that I need some time and space. My other sister K is sent to get some answers and I tell her to mind her own business. T gives me 10 days and then tells me I’m being abusive and I’m just mad because her siblings are alive and mine is dead, that everyone was at her wedding and my brother won’t be at mine. She doesn’t want to come to my wedding because she’s not sure if I even love her anymore. I tell her that needing space was about me not her. At this time she also makes a plea to my parents to get them to make me talk with her- they say she should just leave me alone. My father sobs and begs T to attend the wedding.

At the wedding, T shows up late and leaves early. I generally avoid them and have a fine time. After the wedding she blocks me and my parents on facebook and gets her husband and mother to do the same. I text T that I am available to talk now, but understand if she needs space. No response. I text K and say apologize for being snappy and telling her to mind her own business. She blasts back demanding I take responsibility for everything – for making my “wedding into a battle ground”, shattering all of the relationships, and “single handedly tearing our grieving family apart”. I’m at a loss. Am I selfish? Are they? How much of this is my fault? Should I just cut my losses? Help?

-One wedding and a funeral

(Preferred pronouns she-her)

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Maggie Smith as Professor McGonagall with text "Professor McBadass"

There is more to teaching and life than having a good small-talk game.

Dear Captain Awkward,

This question is not so much about a single major situation or a crisis as it is about a recurring, if minor, situation that I encounter again and again. I am a graduate student at a medium-sized research university where graduate students do a lot of teaching. As a result, I encounter former students on campus on a very regular basis. I hope very much to keep teaching college students long-term, though who knows what my future holds.

The problem I have is this. My classes are often fairly popular with students, in part because my teaching persona is very warm and approachable, and in the classroom, I am good at not taking myself too seriously and putting other people (i.e. students) at ease. In real life I am none of those things: I am awkward, introverted, and ill-at-ease with social acquaintances, and I overread Every. Damn. Detail. of routine social interactions. I often feel that students who run into me in public social settings (at coffee shops, libraries, etc.) are surprised by what they perceive as a change in my affect, and that–put bluntly–I make them feel uncomfortable when they greet me after our class is over. I hate that. I feel I talk too long, or not long enough, or that I greet them when they’d rather avoid me, or that I avoid them when they’d rather greet me.

I should say that, while many college instructors resist or resent outside encounters with students, I don’t feel that way at all. I enjoy keeping up with former students. Even more importantly, I think that students at my large, cold, competitive institution need as many one-on-one adult contacts as they can get, and that it’s important for them to feel like they are part of a supportive social network made up of people of many different ages. I think that having good, positive, low-key, supportive encounters–not with every single student, but with students who actually want to say “hi” or catch up briefly in passing–is an important part of my job. But I’m not good at it.

I’m asking you because I know you are a college professor, and I imagine that–like me–you have a lot of students who would like to keep in touch, or who check in when you pass them in the hallway. Any advice on how to make these encounters productive, or at least comfortable?

Wants to Be That Supportive Former Teacher

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It’s July, so time for the monthly “let’s answer the stuff people typed into search engines” post. It is, as always, a very mixed bag of topics.

1. “Is my partner’s family using my family for money? Help!”

I feel like there is a lot of backstory and context here that would be valuable to know, but one suggestion is to revisit and renegotiate current arrangements around money, and see what happens. It sounds like that you (or your family) are already uncomfortable with something about the financial arrangements that are taking place or requests that are being made, and that’s a good enough reason to pull on one of the threads and see where it goes. Do you feel like you are allowed to say “no, we can’t help with that, sorry?” Does it change how your partner’s family treats you?

2. “Should I be upset with a coworker who didn’t donate to a fundraiser in my name?”

Feel however you want, but I don’t think addressing it with the coworker, complaining to other people, or changing the way you interact with them at work is a good idea at all. Be grateful to the people who did donate, and assume the coworker who didn’t had completely understandable reasons that aren’t really your business. Let this one go.

I don’t feel shame about asking for donations here periodically, or for boosting charity stuff or crowd-funding campaigns for friends or causes I’m close to, and I don’t mind at all when people in my life ask me for help with their stuff, but that only works as long as everyone understands that a request is not an order and that gifts are voluntary. For real, the quickest way to make everyone you know go “fuck you and your cause” is to act like they are obligated to give. I also think, personally, that bosses should never ask their employees for charitable donations. Get some friends, boss. Get some friends.

3. “If someone with depression apologises for something they did, do u tell them its not their fault?”

Well, maybe it is their fault. Depression dulls and blunts a person’s ability to function within relationships sometimes, but it’s not an excuse for mean behavior, and we are still ultimately responsible for how we treat other people. If you want to say something comforting in response to the apology, howabout “Apology accepted, thank you.

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Now and then it’s interesting to see the search terms that bring people here, and, since they are in the form of a question, give some short answers. I’ve added punctuation but otherwise left the texts unaltered.

“Pushing someone to accept something they aren’t ready to.”

Is doomed. You can maybe get someone to say they accept whatever it is in order to end the argument and get you to go away, but you better believe they’re still stewing inside and now have some extra angst that’s directed at you for pushing them.

What if your boyfriend’s parents want you to call them mom and dad?

It sounds like you don’t want to call them Mom and Dad, so, don’t. Say, “That is a very sweet suggestion and I am glad you want us to be close, but I only want to call my own parents that. Can we come up with something else, like, Mr./Mrs. ______ or first names? Thank you.

This is not a normal thing, especially if you guys are unmarried, so stand your ground.

“Speed-friending London.”

GO! And tell us all about it.

Seducing my friend’s girlfriend advice.

Don’t seduce your friend’s girlfriend. That’s my advice.

“How to tell if my best friend’s girlfriend want to have sex with me?”

Assume she doesn’t until you hear the words “Let’s have sex!” come out of her mouth.

“If I send a face book message and they read it and its marked read then why does the read status disappear when they block themselves from me?

Ok, to answer the question you didn’t ask, stop reading over those messages looking for signs of this person’s attention to what you had to say. To answer the one you asked, blocking you severs that relationship on the interface level. Suggestion: Delete the messages. Block them right back. Anything so you aren’t spending one more precious day of your life pouring over communications from someone who clearly doesn’t want to talk to you.

“Making your girlfriend do what you want although she might be busy.”

Ask her to spend time with you. If she’s busy, do something else with your day. If she’s consistently too busy, ask her to talk about how you guys spend time together and tell her how it makes you feel. If she’s still consistently too busy, break up. There is no “making” here – she’s either enthusiastically spending time with you or she isn’t. You can make requests and make decisions about whether that works for you, but that’s where your making powers end.

Girlfriend willing but doesn’t want to have sex.”

Then you don’t have sex with her, and you let that be a thing she initiates.

“I want my nude pictures on the internet.”

From all reports, the Internet is ok with that.

“10shart fuck only vidios opan ok

It’s out there, somewhere. 10 sharts! Be steadfast in your quest.

“Will a guy test you by being a jerk?”

The guys who do this are probably failing your personal “That guy’s a jerk” test. Rather than seeing it as some test that someone eventually passes (um, yay?), maybe see it as a guy acting like a jerk and make decisions accordingly.

How to write a letter to my boyfriend’s jealous ex.

Do not write  a letter to your boyfriend’s jealous ex. It will not make her go away, it will just show that whatever she’s doing is getting to you. The only thing that will make her go away, eventually,  is if both of you starve her of attention.

“Boyfriend not interested my life.”

Let me correct that for you. “My ex-boyfriend was not interested in my life.” Roll that around on the tongue a few times. How does it sound?

“Only depressed before and during work.”

No guarantees, obviously, but a new and different job might clear that right up.

“Should I breakup with my boyfriend if I don’t love him any more?”

Do what you want, but this is literally THE most airtight reason to break up with someone.

“I can’t break up with my boyfriend because he was my first.”

You can break up with someone for any reason. “I don’t want to be in this relationship anymore” is a good reason.

The connection with a first love and/or first sex partner is very intense and lovely and wonderful, but having that connection with someone & making a long-term happy life with someone are not necessarily congruent. Breakups are hard, even when they are for the right reasons, but with time you will bounce back and so will he.

If your high school sex-ed was all about previously chewed gum, plucked daisies, used Kleenex, etc. I am here to tell you those people were sadistic lying assholes. Get thee to Scarleteen.

“Should I pretend to drunk text him?”

What is it that you want to say to him? What if you said it completely sober and completely sincerely?

“How to text a drunk girl.”

What would you say to this girl if she were sober? Try that.

“How to apologize after drunk text.”

Text/Call/Say in person: “Sorry, I was not my best self the other night and am feeling pretty embarrassed.”

Go forth and text, and drink, responsibly. An occasional drunk text can be funny/flirtatious. A cycle of oversharing & apology? Gets annoying really fast.

“Drunk texts to let guy know you like him.”

Okay, okay, I get it. It’s awkward to make yourself vulnerable, and being drunk lowers inhibitions and also gives the illusion of an excuse if the person doesn’t respond the way you want – “Ha ha, no, I was kidding, I was drunk.” I too have made out on the Couch of Plausible Deniability Where We Are Going To Watch A Movie, I Swear.

Drunk texts are not wrong, and if you’re having fun with it, text away! Get your flirt on, people! But if you’re strategizing about this? Maybe it’s time for a “I think you are handsome and cool and would love to go on a date sometime. Have you ever thought about it?

“We made out drunk and he texted me next day.”

Unless he’s sending you insults, it sounds like he’s nice, actually, and making an effort to reach out while sober. There’s no obligation, but if you wanted to hang out again, it sounds like he’s at least open to the idea. Biggest question right now is what do you want to happen now?

“How does being an introvert affect communication?”

Not that much, in my opinion. Introverts need a fair amount of alone time to recharge their batteries and may prefer hanging in smaller groups/quieter spaces. But they CAN and DO communicate just the same as anyone else, including doing very people-centered jobs very well and having an active social life. Introversion vs. extroversion is about preference/style/feeling energized by social contact vs. depleted, not ability, and knowing someone is an introvert is not a predictor or prescriptor of anything. Individuals have differing communications styles, so take your cues from your own preferences or from how a specific person responds to you.

“Do professors like their students to thank them?”

Who wouldn’t like to know that their work affected someone for the better? It’s not necessary or expected that students thank us (the best thanks is you doing your best work and going on to do well), but “I really enjoyed your class” is a very nice thing to hear, especially after grades are in, and especially when it contains some info about what you are currently working on/doing next.

“I fell in love with my professor.”

I’m not going to tell you those feelings aren’t real, but I am going to tell you there’s too much yucky power differential stuff for this to be a good idea to pursue while you are a student at that school. I have a massive side-eye for any professor who would respond positively to romantic or sexual advances from a student. Holy abuse of power and trust, Batman!

“I want to have sex with my therapist.”

This is a REALLY bad idea. Illegal in some cases, the stuff of license-revoking in others, for a good reason. A therapist who has sex with patients is a NO GOOD VERY BAD THERAPIST who is abusing trust and power. Being able to trust and open up to someone compassionate can bring up all kinds of feelings, especially if your therapist is also foxy. But not all feelings need to be acted on, and a good therapist is going to set an ironclad boundary here.

“My mom doesn’t want me to masturbate.”

Good thing it’s not up to her. It’s completely none of her business, in fact, and is strictly between you and you. Masturbation is awesome. Rock on with your sexy self. Also, get thee to Scarleteen.

“What if a guy says it’s awkward and might want to break up.”

When people say stuff like this, believe them. He’s giving you advance warning and telling you that breaking up is on his mind. Start to make your peace with ending the relationship.

“How can I tell my daughter I found a partner for her.”

If you’re from an Arranged Marriages Are A-Okay culture, how did your parents tell you this stuff? I feel like there will be some rituals and scripts around this that are widely-known and your daughter will be expecting some conversation like this to take place.

If you’re not from that kind of culture (and honestly, probably even if you are), I would not talk in terms of “partner” or “husband” or “wife.” At all. That’s putting the cart waaaaaaaaaay before the horse about something that is ultimately not your decision.

Possible script: “Daughter, I met someone who I think you’d really get along with and would like to put you in touch. Can I give you his/her contact information?”

Then you drop the subject. Forever. And you do NOT give your daughter’s contact info to this person, or try to sell them on your daughter. No hinting. No pushing. No inviting the person over for a “Surprise! You two should probably mate!” dinner.

“What does it mean when someone says you have a heart of a bullet and a mind of a boss?”

Take it as a compliment, because if it’s not, your bullet-heart and boss-mind don’t have time for that anyway. Maybe write a song about it.

“Am I a bitch for leaving my boyfriend to take care of myself?”

From where I sit, you are a person who made a hard decision and I wish you all the best. Get on with the job of taking care of yourself, part of which is forgiving yourself and being gentle and kind to yourself and not calling yourself mean names.

Love,

Captain Awkward