A few weeks ago, I visited 826 Boston to teach kids about advice columns. We talked about Love Letters and how it works. We talked about empathy and what it means to put yourself in another person's shoes. We talked about considering the other side of a seemingly one-sided story. We talk about the importance of anonymity. And then, when the group was ready, I asked the kids to answer questions submitted by real Love Letters readers (who sent in notes specifically for this assignment). The kids wrote answers, got some editing, and came up with some nice final drafts.
I promised the kids that I'd post their advice on Love Letters, and today is the day. Feel free to comment on their advice and the questions themselves. Please remember that these kids (who are 12 to 18) will be reading what you have to say. (Watch you language, be supportive, etc.)
Q: Hi Meredith:
This one is from an overheard restaurant conversation. If concerns e-ettiquette.
A woman is speaking to her 2 companions and describes how she had dated this guy for a little bit -- in the vicinity of 2-4 dates -- and the dating halted. Don't know who ended it (wasn't really paying attention), but then came the part that caught my attention: He de-friended her on Facebook. She was offended and told her dining companions that she'd sent a "nasty text" to him berating him for de-friending her. To which she received no response. Her friends agreed with her action. I did not, but it would have been wrong to butt in.
My question: Was de-friending an offense? Was the text an appropriate response?
Followup: What are the politics of dating and Facebook?
The de-friending was probably a shock, but it wasn't inappropriate, since the relationship had ended in RealLife. Leaving unknown the specific RL details, in FB, you are the master of your circle, and there is no offense in ending the connection in the electronic circle if it has been terminated in RL. The nasty text was simply inappropriate.
I asked a couple friends, and was surprised that they thought the de-friending was pretty harsh. Split opinions on whether to bring up de-friending in RL, so I thought this would be a good question.
– Brighton Bob
A: Dear Brighton Bob,
You bring up an interesting point. Should one's dating life and Facebook be so closely intertwined? What does it really mean to "de-friend" someone? And what is an appropriate response to someone "de-friending" you?
In my opinion, de-friending someone is a rather childish and immature response to the end of a relationship. It is possible, however, that the relationship could have ended in a rather unpleasant, or maybe even violent, manner in which case I think de-friending would be appropriate. But otherwise, I think de-friending someone is just kind of, well, silly.
That being said, I don't think she should have been terribly offended by this. And I think the "nasty text" she sent him was completely unnecessary. From the details you've given me about the situation, I gather that she is not entirely over this guy. Primarily, she's talking about him at dinner. Secondly, she searched for him on Facebook (how else would she have known he de-friended her?). And finally, she sent him that text where she could have just let the whole thing go. I think the text was sent from a place of confusion and unease about the end of the relationship, rather than from her actual feelings about the "defriending."
In a way, perhaps it is a good thing that it didn’t work out between the two of them. Neither seems completely ready for a mature, adult relationship.
As far as dating and Facebook go, I think Facebook is a great place to share positive, and only positive, information about relationships. If you're really excited about a date you went on with your boyfriend, go ahead post it! If you took really nice photo of your engagement ring, I'm sure your Facebook friends would love to see it.
Be careful, however, not to use Facebook as a weapon. Many times when we're feeling angry or disappointed or upset about our romantic lives we feel the need to post our feelings publicly, ignoring the fact that we could be offending some of our Facebook friends.
In conclusion, the world of personal relationships and Facebook is a difficult one to navigate but my advice is, when doing anything on Facebook, carefully think about who can see your posts, and try your best not to offend anyone.
A: Dear Brighton Bob,
From reading your letter it sounds like the problem is that the man de-friended the lady and the outcome of his de-friending was the mean nasty letter. It sounds like you're confused about who's wrong and who’s right. Maybe the story is that the man stopped taking an interest to the lady and he de-friended her and maybe because he felt awkward and for him doing so she thought that wasn’t right and sent him a text that’s really rude.
Maybe one option is that you could try to get them together or maybe they could just be friends. Or maybe the man and woman could try the dates out again and if one of them has a negative outcome maybe one person could be brave and go to the other and discuss their problem. The best option I think they should use is the one where they get together and go out and if the date goes wrong subject it to the other woman/man.
A: Dear Brighton Bob,
It seems to me that you heard a conversation with three ladies involved, and one of them had dated a guy. The relationship did not go as planned and the guy had de-friended her on Facebook. That made the young lady mad and she sent a nasty message to him back.
In my opinion two wrongs don't make a right. You said you were not sure on who ended the relationship. From what I could tell maybe it was not the best thing to do for the guy to de-friend her on Facebook. I think maybe they could have still been friends and came up with a situation to be friends. I also think that sending a nasty message was taking it to another level. The real question is why did they break?
Just for the record, there are no rules on Facebook. People can say whatever they want. There is freedom of speech and you won't get in trouble for it. I feel like this can be a teachable moment for you. In my suggestion, dating on Facebook is not the best idea because that's where things are misunderstood. Save Facebook for people you really know so in case you make a mistake it won’t go against you. This will prevent you from not messing up your friendship.
A: Dear Brighton Bob,
From what I’ve read you do not agree with the actions that the lady took. You also have to consider the actions that the guy took as well. If the guy de-friended her on Facebook after they broke it off, then you could assume that she was the one that was dumped. This can bring a girl in a mental state of being emotional. De-friending her on Facebook could have been offensive to her because even if they were not dating, she probably still wanted to be friends. De-friending her on Facebook told her that he doesn't want any relations with her, which in result could have made her mad. So in a way he hurt her. Yes, they could have still been friends but it is possible that they should have never been friends if they did not know each other very well.
Did he deserve the text message that she sent? What she should have done is sent a text message to him expressing how she feels but not so much of an angry text that is going to get no response like the one that she sent to him. When people are dating on Facebook they believe that they have taken their relationship to the next level because they are going public. But if you are looking for the right thing to do when ending a relationship on Facebook you should know there are no rules. But you shouldn’t de-friend someone just because you don’t want a relationship with her. The point of Facebook is to have friends -- having a relationship is just another thing you are allowed to do on there.
A: Dear Brighton Bob,
I would say that de-friending someone is de-friending someone. If you're worried about that, I would not be. The thing I would be worried about is the "nasty text," because then some things could be wrong with these two. I don’t have Facebook and I don’t understand why other people have one, but I know that Facebook was used to see or chat with people that you haven’t seen in a long time or to find friends that you haven’t seen in a long time. I would just report her.
One student, Larry, decided to answer a different question form another Love Letters reader who was having a family problem.
Q: Dear Meredith,
My God-Daughter, "Linda", who is 13, and her younger brother,"Zach" who is 10, like to bicker and argue as often as possible. Zach likes to make a lot of noise and annoy Linda, and Linda likes to complain about Zach at the top of her voice while rolling her eyes. I like to take them out to do fun things, but when they argue they give everyone else in the car a headache. I also worry about what effect this will have on my toddler, who is also in the car with us at these times.
Interestingly enough, when only one of the kids is in the car, we have quiet, interesting discussions or goof around at a reasonable volume with very little complaining. It is only when both of them are together that the noise starts. What should I do to make sure that everyone has fun and no one gets a headache?
– Stuck in the middle
A: Dear Stuck in the Middle,
It must be extremely difficult to deal with a brother and sister constantly bickering every time they're brought together. You're doing a great job as a parent/ godparent spending so much time with your god daughter, her brother, on top of your toddler.
At the same time, you must consider the fact that they are siblings. It's completely normal for them to argue. If it is less stressful for you when you just have one of them, then keep it that way. The fact that you're spending time with both of them is commendable.
Aside from the examples set by others, as a parent it's vital that your influence sticks within your child. There's nothing wrong with them being exposed to how others behave but you should always set the proper example for them. Usually, a parent's influence will have a big affect on a child.
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Meredith Goldstein is a Boston Globe columnist who follows relationship trends and entertainment. She offers daily advice on Love Letters — and welcomes your comments. Meredith is also the author of "The Singles," a novel about complicated relationships. Follow Meredith at www.meredithgoldstein.netand on Twitter. Love Letters can be found in the print edition of The Boston Globe every Saturday in the G section.