Dear Readers: Every year during this time I step away from my column to work on other creative projects. I hope you enjoy these (edited) “Best Of” Q&As from 10 years ago.
Today’s topic is: Unsocial media.
I also invite readers to subscribe to my weekly “Asking Amy” newsletter, at Amydickinson.substack.com, where I post a favorite Q&A, as well as commentary about what I’m reading, watching, and listening to.
I’ll be back with fresh columns after next week.
Dear Amy: My daughter-in-law “Wendy” uses Facebook to complain about her job, her boss, how much she feels cheated by being a working mother, and even about the shortcomings of her new husband (my son), who apparently failed to buy her a lavish enough Mother’s Day present.
These posts create a kind of online persona that makes her seem vicious, and she really isn’t. But the really embarrassing part is that she is Facebook “friends” with everyone in my family, and, believe me, her posts are a topic of not-too-flattering gossip.
I have mentioned to my son a few times when her posts have become offensive, and he is trying to deal with it offline.
– Concerned Mother-in-law
Dear Concerned: When your daughter-in-law posts her complaints, selfishness or negativity on the public bulletin board that is Facebook, she runs the risk of ruining her personal and professional reputation. And that’s her business.
When her whining veers into family territory, that’s your business.
A gentle and respectful “heads-up” (to her) is in order, and then you should back off, adjust your settings (both metaphorically and on Facebook) and stop reading her posts.
Dear Amy: My dad’s politics are at odds with the rest of the family.
He keeps sending us extreme and hateful articles. We keep asking him to stop, but when he drinks too much (which is almost every night) he will send us articles with messages like, “You won’t be so hard on me after you read this factual article” (which it isn’t).
I’ve asked him to stop sending me any political emails, but then he won’t talk to me for days.
Sometimes he won’t remember sending me anything (because of his drinking) and his feelings are hurt because he has no idea why I am so hard on him. I try to take the high road, but I also will not let him bully me. What can I do to keep him from upsetting me, outside of cutting him out of my life?
– Desperate Daughter
Dear Daughter: You think this is about offensive or unwanted email, but I think this is about your father’s drinking. You claim his drinking is excessive enough that he does things he doesn’t remember doing, then his feelings are hurt when you (or others) react to his actions.
You should automatically delete his messages to you, or have email from him sent directly to your “spam” folder for you to review periodically.
Has anybody in your family urged your father to get help to stop drinking? You can anticipate denial and/or belligerence when you do, which isn’t much different from how he relates to you anyway.
Dear Amy: I’ve known a dear friend’s father and stepmother for many years. Recently my friend’s father “friended” me on Facebook. I was happy at first, but he writes diatribes to almost anything I post and has used (somewhat “coded”) obscene language.
It’s really weird and disturbing. I asked him not to use the language, and he seems to have backed off a bit, but he spends way too much time on Facebook and way too much time “challenging” me on political and religious stuff.
Without offending my friend, how can I stop it?
Dear Facebooked: You have attempted to influence this person to behave differently, but he is an adult and he can do as he pleases. So can you.
You could “unfriend” or “block” him but if you feel this would cause additional unpleasantness, you could limit his access to your posts.
You two would still be Facebook friends, but if he doesn’t see your posts, he won’t have much to push against.
I don’t think there is any reason to involve your (actual) friend in this (unless you are worried about her father’s health). If this man contacts you wondering why he isn’t seeing all of your updates, be honest and say his responses bothered you. Then accept the fact that he might not like this reaction.
(You can email Amy Dickinson at [email protected] or send a letter to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or Facebook.)
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