In this month’s HerTake question, Nina discusses what to do if you think a friend is purposely ignoring your posts on Facebook. Have you been on the receiving end of a digital dissing? Have you ever purposely withheld likes and comments from a friend? Let us know what advice you have for this month’s letter writer.
I’m confused by one of my friends who is great in person, but ignores me on Facebook. Yes, a modern “problem,” but one that does affect our relationship or at least how I view our relationship.
First, some background: I met “Jana” in a support group as we were both going through infertility. We hit it off and have been friends now for eight years. (By the way, we both have babies so it all ended well.)
When we’re together, just the two of us, whether in person or on the phone, we have a wonderful time connecting, and I feel like she’s one of my closest friends. But then she completely ignores me on social media. We are friends on Facebook and Instagram, and I see that she likes and comments on (seemingly) everybody else’s feeds but mine. I also write a personal blog that I know she reads diligently because she mentions things she’s read there, but she has only commented on my site twice in the last eight years.
You gave some great advice a few months back that if you look for something on Facebook, you’ll find it. So I don’t go looking because it makes me feel really bad, but we do have about 10 – 15 common friends/ acquaintances, and I see her generous comments often, just never on anything I’ve shared.
The strangest thing is that she recently said to me that an acquaintance was doing this to her. I was so shocked I said nothing, but now I’m wondering if I should ask her about this, or just ignore it and pretend I don’t see all the other activity going on?
I have thought that maybe she doesn’t want to be associated with the infertility and wants to move on, but she’s very open about it, as am I, and many of the other friends were in the same situation.
Do you have any insights? What do you think is going on?
Tired of the Facebook Freeze
Dear Tired of the Facebook Freeze,
I think others will relate to your dilemma whether or not they’ve felt the cold shoulder from a friend online. It hits on themes about one person feeling she’s making more of an effort; speculation about another’s motives creating (or on the precipice of creating) a schism that may not be based on truth; and a problem in a friendship seeming like one person’s inability to deliver when the real problem could be an unreasonable expectation in the first place.
I have so many thoughts that I’m going to organize my answer into subheadings. And to make sure I was thorough, I consulted four of my trusted blogging friends and two non-blogging friends. Are you ready? Let’s go!
Option #1: Blame the Facebook Algorithm and Let it Go
Blaming the Facebook algorithm allows you to accept the possibility that Jana is not purposely ignoring your posts. Even with the (scary) amount of time I spend on Facebook, I miss tons of what my friends share. I think it’s likely that as more time went by without Jana liking or commenting on a post, Facebook stopped showing your posts in her feed. For those not aware of how Facebook’s algorithm works, it shows you what it thinks you want to see based on what you’ve ‘liked’ in the past. That said, the algorithm is ever-changing and secretive so nobody knows for sure.
I like the idea of giving Jana the benefit of the doubt considering that your friendship is solid face-to-face. One of my blogging buddies added: “There’s a friend of mine from college who writes genuinely interesting posts, but lately I haven’t seen him at all in my feed. I had to consciously seek him out, and still, he is not regularly in my feed, even though we have numerous mutual friends.” In other words, you cannot assume Jana is purposely ignoring the posts.
Related to the algorithm: You can also make a point of visiting Jana’s page more often. One of my non-blogging friends said, “I think the writer of the question should shower Jana with positive comments and likes without expectations of the same. If nothing changes, then she should stop going to the hardware store for raisins.” Meanwhile, I’m now adopting that fantastic expression!
Option #2: Be Direct
From another one of my blogging friends:
“If Tired of the Facebook Feed deems Jana as a good friend and is concerned about her lack of comments on her FB/blog, why not cut to the chase and ask her directly about her silence? I realize that may cast TotFF in a needy light, but I sense she is probably spending oodles of time speculating on this. If this friend is ‘close,’ perhaps it might unearth an underlying conflict that requires a discussion.”
I think that’s good advice if option #1 is too hard. However, if you’re going to ask Jana directly why she doesn’t interact with your posts online (whether on the blog or on Facebook), you need to soften that accusation with a hefty amount of self-deprecation about how her friendship in person should be enough, but you can’t help noticing her comments on mutual friends’ posts and worry it’s personal that she doesn’t comment on yours. There’s no way to say something like that without sounding overly needy of her attention. That doesn’t mean you can’t bring up the issue, but be aware of how you word the question. Also note that you may get her to start liking your posts, but you could find yourself wondering if she’s doing so with a level of obligation that will eventually lead to resentment on her part, which brings me to my next point.
How Much Interaction is Reasonable to Expect on Facebook?
I don’t have a precise answer to this area of etiquette. (Who does?) But I bet that whatever any of us expect from friends on Facebook it is too much. We’ve already covered that many posts on Facebook get missed despite best intentions. But let’s say we do see all of a particular friend’s posts? Are we expected to like every single one? Comment on every third one? Share one post a month from a friend’s business page? There are no rules and assuming our friends even see our posts is a recipe for disappointment. I can think of a few times I have asked friends to share a post, but I specifically asked them to do so. There was no beating around the bush. Those who were comfortable shared, those who weren’t into the topic or even the idea of sharing posts likely did not. No problem on my end.
Now let’s factor in the point that Jana is a “real life” friend. Here’s what my non-blogging friend had to say about the situation.
“Facebook is a forum to connect with people I wouldn’t normally connect with in person. If I have someone’s number, I’m sending texts or emails, not writing comments on Facebook. I never expect a friend to comment on Facebook about something unless I’m promoting my business there and they have committed to helping in some way. It doesn’t bother me if my local friends don’t help by sharing a post because I often let at least five days go by before I check Facebook. I don’t expect anyone else to be checking frequently.”
My same non-blogging friend added something extra important: “If Jana seems to ignore invitations to communicate outside of Facebook—doesn’t want plans, cancels, doesn’t return phone calls, doesn’t ever ask how you are and never initiates contact—then that is either someone who doesn’t want to be friends or is not a good friend.”
TotFF, I think that is a KEY point. And the flip side is true, too. If Jana is behaving like a good friend in all those ways, I think option #1 is the way to go. What happens offline wins every time!
Regarding the Blog Comments
My blogging crew and I agreed that you cannot expect non-bloggers to comment on the actual website. Since Jana mentions reading posts, we would all consider that above and beyond any written comment.
The Danger of Writers Looking for Friends’ Approval
Two of my blogging friends asked a version of the following point: “Why is TotFF so focused on this particular friend commenting? I do think it’s a thought saddled with some quest for approval and perhaps TotFF will never receive it from this particular friend.”
And now, TotFF, I’m going to tell you the hard truth. You have to force yourself to forget about winning Jana’s thumbs up online. I say this as someone who was, once upon a time, overly fixated on hoping a particular person (or two) would show enthusiasm, or at least positive thoughts, about my career path. You have to ask yourself why Jana’s lack of digital support is bothering you so much. Does her lack of acknowledgement mirror any doubts you have about what you’re posting? Do you feel any competition with some of the other people who write posts that she publicly likes?
Oy vey, people. Social media is complicated, isn’t it? TotFF, I know that many others have been where you are. I bet some have also been on the other side purposely withholding likes and comments from others so we know it’s possible Jana is doing the same to you. I vote for option one, but I’d love to hear other points of view, and I’m sure TotFF would, too.
Good luck and I’m sorry you’re feeling bad about this relationship right now,
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