How To Deal With Your Emo Facebook Friends

You know, the ones posting sad lyrics ALL THE TIME. Also, how do you ask a stranger to watch your laptop in a coffee shop?

Is a subscription to Netflix or some other service for six months a good gift? I was wondering about the moral quandaries of that — they get six months and then they either let this thing they got used to go away, or they have to pay their own money. Sucks! (Maybe?)

I understand the concern, because with most gifts, if you were to take them back after a specific amount of time, you’d be kind of an asshole. “You can have these earrings, but after six months, you need to give me $300, or else I will seize them.” That would be weird and manipulative of you, and I would say that you should spend your money on therapy instead of on time-sensitive presents. (Therapist: “Do you find that you enjoy being withholding?” You: *crying*)

Subscriptions, I think, are different. By nature, they require monthly or yearly payment, and the person you’re giving one to will know that. Whether she decides to keep the subscription or not really has no bearing on the goodness of your gift, and it isn’t something you should worry about or take personally. Either she’ll decide she can’t live without it (and if it’s Netflix, that is probably what will happen) or she’ll decide it was nice while it lasted, and that’s all. She will have gotten six months of something she didn’t have (and, ideally, expressed an interest in) before, and that is nice! Besides, it’s like they always say: don’t look a gift subscription in the … end date.

My friend is always posting lyrics or emotional statuses on Facebook about his ex-girlfriend without SAYING it’s about her, but everyone (all our mutual friends, the ex herself) KNOW it’s about her and so it’s awkward. How do I make him stop?

Oh, I know exactly what this looks like.

Him, 3:04 pm: “feelin really down lately. it’s always harder than you expect when things change”
Him, 11:15 pm: “‘you don’t know what you got til it’s gone’ – counting crows”
Him, 2:40 am: “it’s hard to fall asleep when you’re not lying next to me. there aren’t enough sheep in the world”

…And on and on like that, forever, until he 1) meets someone new and commences posting statuses from the opposite end of the over-share status spectrum or 2) dies. (You KNOW those people won’t let old age stop them.) Those are the only options because – unless you are under 16 years old – you know what has never made your ex want to get back together with you? Public displays of desperate, pathetic self-pity (PDDPSP). It’s not a strategic move; it’s just a sad one. It’s going to make everyone feel sorry for you, and NOT in the way you want.

So, having steered the masses away from this sort of behavior going forward, we still have your friend to deal with. If it’s still early on after the break-up, you should email him or call him and saying, “Hey, I saw your Gotye status. Are you ok? It’s _______, isn’t it?” (The blank is for the ex’s name. Don’t just pause – that will confuse him.) Let him know that you and your friends know what he’s referring to, but more importantly: be nice! He’s your friend and he just got broken up with, you jerk! If it is LONG after the break-up (i.e., more time has passed than time they were together), and you are a supportive friend in every other respect, go ahead and start “liking” the statuses. ALL of them. Then post the lyrics to Sting’s “Every Breath You Take” as a comment. On ALL OF THEM.

Is it okay to ask a stranger to watch your laptop in a coffee shop? Otherwise, what should you do when you have to pee? And can you tell somebody NO if they ask you, because you’ve got better things to watch, like a Rihanna music video?

Finding a common sense solution to the problem of what we do with all our belongings when we’re working in a coffee shop and need to pee five times in two hours is, I would imagine, one of this nation’s most pressing policy concerns. In the future (let’s say, by 2025) I’d like there to be Plexiglas boxes attached to every coffee shop table, with an individual lock and key to lock up your things while you use the bathroom or get more coffee. “Lockboxes,” right? Let’s get that term back into the political lexicon. Yes we can!

Yes, you can ask a stranger to watch your laptop. Whether or not you SHOULD ask is another question. Do you trust this stranger more than you fear him/her stealing your laptop? If yes, then go ahead and ask. For me personally, that trust never exceeds the fear, so I am always packing up my laptop and bringing it into the bathroom stall with me like a suspicious and kind of gross lunatic. That way, you can leave less valuable stuff on the table (water bottle, laptop case, etc.) and it should be fine. If you are taking just 2-4 minutes away from your claimed territory, I think that is a fair way to save your spot. If you need longer than that, please step away from the Internet and see your physician.

But if you DO want to ask a stranger, you can. Most people want to help each other out as long as it doesn’t take too much work, and what could be easier than occasionally shifting your eyeballs a few inches over to check on another person’s laptop? So no, you can’t say no if someone else asks you. I forbid that. If you are trying to get out of doing a literally effortless favor, you are a sociopath. Watch that stranger’s laptop because it is the easiest security you will ever provide. Pretend you’re a spy if you have to, I don’t care! And if he doesn’t come back after ten minutes, you get to keep it. No, I’m just kidding. You have to wait, but if he takes too long, you can make fun of him when he comes back, like, “Haha what were you DOING in there? Do you have bowel problems or something?? Haha!” Then either you two will become fast friends, or he’ll never bother you for a favor again and warn the other patrons to avoid you, too. Win win.

FWD: Halp! is a weekly advice column on how to behave like a person when using technology. Would you like said advice? Email your questions to Katie.

Katie Heaney is a writer and volunteer text message analyst living in Minneapolis. She thinks you should have good manners, even on the internet.

Illustration by Cara Vandermey

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