The Internet is a wonderful if confusing world – and that’s why you sometimes need to be pointed in the right direction. Lucky for you, some of us spend far too much time online and logged in – and that wealth of experience translates into some social networking know-how. Consider Miss Netiquette (who you can reach at firstname.lastname@example.org) your guide to Web manners, and this week, she’s going to give you some tips on how you can enjoy yourself on social media while you’re trying to avoid someone.
Social media is great for communication, but sometimes you just don’t want to communicate with everyone. And I don’t mean just being a total misanthrope – because then there’d be no need for social media in the first place – I’m talking about when there’s a certain person or group of people you just don’t want to deal with. Your ex. Your ex’s girlfriend. An over-eager cousin who wants to network. Your bosses’ son, you know, the one she thinks would be just perfect for you. It’s hard to figure out a savvy way to digitally side-step these people, since your social media footprint is often easily traceable. So I hope the answers to the following questions will help you come up with discreet ways to avoid people online.
Dear Miss Netiquette: I just broke up with my girlfriend, and I know this sounds awful… but I broke up with her because I’d fallen in love with someone else, and now I’ve successfully convinced her to go out with me. But now I’m in a bind; my ex-girlfriend de-friended me, but none of our mutual friends did. My new girlfriend and I just went on an awesome weekend trip and I want to put the pictures up – but I don’t want to hurt my ex. What should I do?
To be honest, you probably already hurt your ex the most when you, y’know, broke up with her. And if she’s de-friended you, she’s done what she can to avoid seeing your online self. Now, you could set the privacy to your photo album and specifically block your mutual friends and her sister, but that might be more trouble than it’s worth, depending on how many mutual friends you have. If it’s just a handful and you’re not super-close with them, then you can take an extra precaution and block them from seeing your photos. Or you can just put the album to normal friends-only and stop worrying about it. As long as you’re not tagging your ex in these photos, it’s not like you’re going out of your way to make her feel bad. You could always just wait on the photo spree.
Dear Miss Netiquette: I am running for local office, so I spent a lot of time cleaning up my online profiles. I deleted my personal Facebook page and made a professional one, my Twitter is now stuffier than Hillary Clinton’s, and the only thing I ever post semi-personal photos to anymore is Instagram (and they’re all PC). Here’s my problem: my cousin. We used to… share herbal cigarettes frequently in high school, and he’s in a totally different place in life. So different that he has a weed-themed blog, complete with accompanying weed-themed social media accounts. That’s fine, to each their own. But he keeps posting Throwback Thursday pictures of ME, smoking something that is definitely not legal in my state. I’ve asked him to stop and he just laughs. What steps can I take to distance myself from him online?
So, you probably already know that if your cousin tries to tag you in any of these photos, you can immediately put the kibosh on that. But beyond that, you can’t really force him to take down the pictures. This could be problematic for your political career. Try talking to him again, and I’d even recommend telling him that if he can’t respect you online, he can’t respect you in real life, and say you need to cut ties. That might seem harsh, but he’s being incredibly rude right now, so he deserves a harsher ultimatum.
Dear Miss Netiquette: One of my co-workers grinds my gears so much that I always hide myself from him on Gchat and Facebook chat. But recently he came and leaned over my shoulder in the middle of the day while I was chatting with friends, and was like “I knew you were online!” So now he just messages and chats at me all the time assuming I’m online even when I look like I’m offline. This is my personal hell. Help.
OK, since you’ve been busted, you have a few options. For Facebook chat, just don’t look at the messages, and he will see (thanks, read receipts) that you haven’t seen them yet. If he asks, tell him you’re cutting back on Facebook during the workday, which you should probably do anyway. You can do the same for Gchat. Of course, if he comes creeping over your shoulder again, you might still be busted. But I think you should just tell him straight-up that you don’t regularly chat during the workday and he caught you during a quiet moment. Then don’t respond to ANY of his chats. He should get the hint. If he insists that he sees you chatting with others by looking over your shoulder, tell them that it’s an important personal matter and you’d prefer to keep it close to the chest. That’s about as much as you can do, short of permanently blocking the guy, which would likely ruffle his feathers in a way that would make working together tense.
Dear Miss Netiquette: How can I post pictures on Instagram without my parents seeing them? I’m 20 and I have really strict parents who get mad when I post partying pictures. I can’t set my profile to private because they said if I do that they won’t pay my tuition anymore.
I really don’t want to encourage you to post “partying pictures” at all, but if you want to evade your parents, you are an adult so you should be able to go for it. Just set up a second Instagram account and don’t tell them about it. Make sure the Instagram isn’t connected to your real name. Then either tell them you lost interest in your Instagram, or if they don’t believe you, then occasionally post on the old Instagram to keep them mollified.
Dear Miss Netiquette: I’m having a surprise party for my friend and I want it to actually be a surprise. I’m in the initial stages of planning but I don’t know what to do because she’s a social media mastermind and I just figured out how to post pictures to Facebook. Do you have any advice for making an event on Facebook that she won’t see? I don’t really know all her friends and it seems like that’s the easiest way to get everyone on board.
If there’s any way you can stay off social media, you should – snag her phone and copy the contact info of her friends, for instance, and then call them – but if you really can’t get in touch with anyone unless you use social media, you should definitely pay attention to the privacy settings. Make the event closed, and make sure only you can invite people. Then you need to make sure to emphasize that people should not check the event page when she’s around. Now, there’s a chance she might be hanging out with someone you invited while they open the event page, but that’s not super-likely.