friendship

Tag: friendship

HerTake: Friends Who Cancel Too Often

In this month’s HerTake question, Nina answers a letter from a woman who says her friends often cancel plans or change the plans last minute. Is this an expected part of being an understanding friend or does this letter writer have especially rude friends in her life? Help our letter writer decide what to do!

Do you have a question for Nina? Use our anonymous form. You can read Nina’s answers to past questions here.

Dear Nina,

I’ve come across a problem recently in my social life that I’m stumped as how to solve. There have been a number of times when friends have either canceled plans that we’ve made or declared that they could actually only hang out for much shorter than originally planned because other plans came up. The problem I have is that I don’t know how to nicely explain to them that this is rude and makes me feel bad. Every time I have tried to go about this, I feel like I am coming off as the rude one for being upset, even though they’re the ones skipping out on our plans.

What is your advice?

Thanks!

Tired of the Cancellations

Dear Tired of the Cancellations,

I don’t blame you for being irritated! Now, whether you should take it personally is another issue, and what to do about it is a separate answer, too. I will get to it all.

Are these friends unreliable in other areas of their lives? Do they frequently cancel on others? Are they chronically late? (I mean more than a few minutes.) I’m asking because if they are unreliable in general, then it’s not something you should take personally. Not taking it personally, however, doesn’t mean you want to count on them as your closest friends. Because, yes, their unreliability sounds excessive and cancelling because something better came along is as rude as it gets.

Each person has to decide how much cancelling of plans she can tolerate in a friendship, and there’s no right answer. I can tolerate more than average because I have to cancel sometimes. I have four kids, and if I make a lunch date or any kind of meeting with a person during the school day, I will have to cancel if one of my kids has to stay home from school. In the past two weeks, for example, my kids took turns passing around a five-day virus. I had to cancel on the same friend twice. Each time I rescheduled on the spot to signal how much I want to see her. She knew not to take it personally, and I was grateful for her flexibility. Similarly, I have a handful of friends with whom I make dinner plans so far in advance that we have a mutual understanding making it easy and unemotional if one of us has to cancel because family came in town or a birthday or bar mitzvah invitation arrived that would be strange to skip for a dinner out with friends we can see another time. But if we cancelled on each other for “better” plans? No, that wouldn’t be cool.

Even with all that in mind about times I may have to cancel or my close friends have to cancel, we all try very hard to keep our plans because as you’ve experienced, too much cancelling sends the message that you don’t want to spend time with the person on the other end of that conversation. There’s a balance friends have to strike between flexibility (understanding that life serves up unexpected illnesses and other problems) and reliability (knowing you can count on your friends the majority of the time). I think a solid friendship exists in that sweet spot in the middle.

It sounds like your friends are asking for too much flexibility. That doesn’t mean a big confrontation is required or that the friendships need to end completely, but if you’re unable to communicate your legitimate frustration without them turning it around on you, then it may be time for a demotion for these ladies. Don’t make plans with them for a while and focus more on current acquaintances who could become better friends after spending more time together. Yes, you can talk to your chronically cancelling friends about how their behavior makes you feel, but you cannot force them to change.

Last point: a friend of mine who said this keeps happening to her teenage daughter encouraged her daughter to use the experience to shape the type of friend she wants to be to others. That’s great advice! I hope that helps, and perhaps other readers will have different ideas.

Nina

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The Social Media Cold Shoulder

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.

Do you have a question for Nina? Use our anonymous form. You can read Nina’s answers to past questions here.

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Dear Nina,

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?

Signed,

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,

Nina

 

FULL RES - Badzin-03 copy-1You can follow Nina on her blog, on Facebook, and on Twitter.

We’re always looking for new reader questions for Nina! If you have a difficult friendship situation that you’d like advice on, fill out our anonymous contact form.

 

 

 
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