I get a lot of Facebook friend requests from strangers because of work. The requests are usually from people with whom I have a couple friends in common, or who include nice messages. But I just don't want to be friends with people I don't know. (I've tried accepting semi-strangers in the past, which resulted in a couple of creepy interactions and a subsequent purge.) I don't know how to respond without seeming insanely narcissistic or mean. Is this just one of the perils of having a social media account? Is the polite thing to do just not do anything at all?
So let’s say you spend your Thursday happy hours at this very loud and popular bar where everyone is extremely cliquey and bratty and talks about politics too much and too loudly. We’re both there, shouting. Sometimes people gather around us to listen and reply, and that’s fine because that’s kind of why we go to that bar. That’s Twitter. But eventually you want to go home. When you get there you find real friends in the living room, and high school friends in the attic, creaking around the floorboards, as always. But there is also a line of people waiting outside your locked front door, asking to be let in. You have no idea why some (even most) of them are there. It makes no sense. That’s Facebook.
So yes, this is one of the perils of having a social media presence, but no, that does not mean that you owe people access to your Facebook. Social media and the Internet make us feel like we know each other, and sometimes that’s because we DO know each other a little better than we otherwise would. And sometimes that makes us reach too far out. There are people to whom I’ve sent friend requests that I probably shouldn’t have. I get excited easily! Friends! But once I sent a request to a somewhat older person I only sort of knew through work, and that person clearly hit “deny.” So that was embarrassing for a day, and I felt dumb, but then I forgot about it. (Until now, ugh.) But it was also a good reminder.
And it’s true that there are certain public figures that don’t mind being friends with everyone. Good for them! You don’t have to be one of them. Your Facebook is your Facebook, and I think that almost every reasonable person is willing to accept a stance on Facebook friendship that is consistent. Your stance is “I’m only Facebook friends with people I really know.” So when those requests come in, if you want to deny them or ignore them, just do it. Don’t send a message, because unfortunately (and unfairly) I think that might give people the idea that they’re allowed to protest. It also makes it seem more personal — like you had to think about it and STILL said no. This isn’t going to be a decision anymore. It’s going to be a policy. Make everything as bureaucratic as possible, that’s what I always say.
I have a coworker who, twice now, has asked to borrow my iPhone earbuds to watch something on his computer. It’s always quick and everything, but this is gross, right? How do I escape this?
OK, here’s my first thought: Keep an extra pair of earbuds (not your normal good ones, but the same kind as your normal good ones) in your desk drawer with a big tub of Carmex — the older, the better. (It seems to get yellower, doesn’t it?) When your coworker comes around (and he’s definitely going to), reach into your drawer for the earbuds and surreptitiously grind the earpieces into the Carmex. Just really get them in there. Then hand the earphones to your coworker, and don’t smile or even blink at all, and drop them into his palm. Don’t say one word. Then come back here and tell me everything he did.
Or maybe just say no. That’s what I would do, most likely, though I would really, really love it if you’d try the first option. This is a good and easy way to try out what I want everyone to start trying out, which is having confrontations. This just doesn’t need to be a big deal. Your coworker comes over to your desk and says, again, “Can I borrow those earbuds?” And you say, “Actually I was about to use them, and also get your own damn earbuds, Jerry!” You should smile and look exasperated at the same time — because you ARE exasperated, but you also have a very genial humor about it. He’ll be like, “Haha, ugh, I know.” That is seriously all that’s going to happen. The end!!
How do I know when to end a back-and-forth text conversation with someone I’m starting to see? It’s hard to stop!
All of our relationships and all of us as people are different. Some of us like texting and some don’t, for one. But some of us are dreamy and like to think and talk about the distant future, and some of us only care about the next 10 minutes and what we can eat during them. Some of us are sarcastic and some of us are dry-humored and some of us are boring. Some people respond well to lots and lots of flirtation and some of us do not. So it’s hard to say with any certainty whether or not the magnitude of your texting, at the beginning of a relationship, might hurt or help anything at all.
That being said, I think you should treat this situation exactly the same, no matter the person, no matter what.
You get an hour. An hour to make your case — think of it that way. It shouldn’t take you this long, even, to recognize whether or not there’s something you’re trying to SAY, but I know how you get around cute people. So after an hour you need to evaluate and think, Am I talking about absolutely nothing right now? If the answer is yes, make up a reason to be done. Text “I’m headed out for a bit, talk to you later.” Oooh, mysterious! If the answer is no, you get a 20-minute grace period to tie things up. Beyond that, it is just ridiculous. Save some conversation topics for your next date! Have you even started worrying about that yet? Go! Now!
Katie Heaney is a contributing editor at BuzzFeed FWD. She thinks you should have good manners, even on the internet.
Illustration by Cara Vandermey