Etiquette

Confessions of a terrible person: The Facebook edition

Note: This post was written a year or so ago, when the events were still fresh.  I waited for a while to post this because I didn’t want to risk hurting anyone who was close enough to the situation to be able to see through the name changes.  Why post it at all?  Well, this issue comes up from time to time on Facebook and I think it’s important for people to realize how they come across and what they can do instead to communicate their priorities more effectively.

I love Facebook – I really do.  Because of Facebook, I keep in touch with my siblings, high school classmates, high school church friends, college classmates, former coworkers from the military and my old job, acquaintances that I would REALLY like to get to know better but we haven’t found the time to get together, my stepchildren from my first marriage, and many others.  Without Facebook I would never be able to stay in touch with all these people, see pictures of them, see pictures of their growing families, or read what they are thinking, feeling, and what’s going on in their lives.

But that doesn’t mean I like everything I see on Facebook.

Here’s the deal –  I like pictures, I like funny things, I like commentary, I like opinions, I like reading that you’re proud of yourself / spouse / kid, I like silly Buzzfeed quizzes.  I like a lot of things; I happen to think I’m pretty chill about most of the stuff that people post.  I DON’T like spam, I don’t like “copy and paste this to your status for 1 hour if you care about (insert miscellaneous cause here),” I don’t like disgusting pictures, I don’t like “you won’t BELIEVE what happens next!” clickbait, and I DON’T like incessant updates spewed at the general public about things I don’t care about.

So, on my Facebook for the last few weeks / months / honestly-I’ve-lost-track, I’ve been seeing a couple friends in particular spamming with regard to a particular cause.  I’m talking status updates, pictures, a hashtag – they were both sharing directly from a particular page someone created called “Team Jim and Pam Halpert” as well as writing status updates with the #prayforjim hashtag on their own.  Since my friends themselves were spamming their own status updates, NOT just from the page, I can’t unfollow them without missing all the things from them that are the reason I enjoy Facebook in the first place.

I finally decided to click around and see what the fuss was all about.  After a few minutes of clicking and scrolling I saw a reference to chemotherapy.  Okay, so some guy I don’t know has cancer and for THAT my Facebook feed has been clogged to hell and gone with “Pray for Jim!” #prayforjim, and the like.  Seriously?

Lest I sound like a jerk (a lost cause already, I know), there is a polite way and an obnoxious way to invite people to care about your cause.  There is a reason that even not-for-profits with the most urgent needs don’t rent large loudspeakers and constantly entreat us all out loud to donate; what I am venting about here is the Facebook equivalent of loudspeaker chatter.  Much more effective would be an approach that is the Facebook equivalent of being in a room with invited guests and talking about the things you invited them there to talk about.

But how do you do that?

Great question – glad you asked.

Do what my friend Katlyn did when Seth died (story here) – she created a page “In loving memory of Seth,” and invited everyone to the page.  If you wanted to talk about Seth, share pictures, find out when and where the memorial service was, you could like the page.  By “Like”-ing the page, you were opting in to having things about Seth in your feed.  Only the invite to the page was public and it was the one thing that hit everyone’s news feed.  If you didn’t know Seth that well or if you had other priorities (not gonna judge you for that), you don’t have to see it.

This creates a safe space for people who want to talk about nothing but Seth, all day every day.  Like maybe his sister or his mom – they kinda didn’t have much else on their minds at the time, and understandably so.  So they can receive a steady stream of support without harassing anyone and everyone.

So – if you want me to care about your random cause or random person, invite me to “like” the page.  I won’t do it, but I will appreciate what this means to you and I will definitely send some thoughts and prayers your way.  And then this part is critical – DON’T BOTHER ME AGAIN.  Not until there’s an actual significant change.  Like if the person is healed / cancer-free / back from a deployment / home from the hospital / whatever.  Or if the person dies, in which case I will express my condolences and pray for their soul.  To recap, I should see this random posting from you exactly twice – 1) the first time to let me know what’s going on; and 2) the last time to let me know that either the crisis is over or it’s a moot point.

So this morning, as usual, I am scrolling down past a funny picture (lol!), a baby picture (so cute!  Congratulations!), a Buzzfeed quiz (lol!), three political statuses (I don’t quite agree but I appreciate the thought you have put into your position), and YET ANOTHER #prayforjim.  I rolled my eyes in irritation before I noticed that this one was different – “Pray for peace as Jim goes to meet his King.”

Oh.

Jim of #prayforjim and Team Jim and Pam Halpert died.  Well, now I really feel like an asshole.  Deep sigh.  Never mind – I take it all back.  I guess I’ll just shut up now and finally #prayforjim.

How to talk to gay people (a primer)

Opening

Firstly, say hello.  Similar to straight people, most gay people begin their conversations with a greeting.  Common variants are “hello,” “hi,” “yo,” or very rarely, “greetings and salutations.”

Before you proceed, check for eye contact.  Eye contact is a common signal among gay people that a conversation has begun.  If you have not succeeded in making eye contact, DO NOT PROCEED.  As a conversation for gay people is an encounter involving two or more people (i.e. more than just you), you have no conversation if you have failed to gain their attention.  Don’t take it personally and simply try again another time, just like you would treat a missed connection with a straight person.

Next steps

Next, you may ask any of several small-talk type questions, such as “How do you know (insert mutual friend here)?” Or “How long are you visiting the area?” or even “What lovely weekend weather we had!  Were you able to get outside?”  Most gay people are reasonably well-versed in social customs, in a proportion likely similar to straight people.  That’s why they are called “social customs,” because people who are members of society are generally aware of them.  Even gay members of society.

Caution: Similar to straight relationships, gay relationships may be complex or a sensitive subject, so it may be a bit forward to ask directly about their partner or their family. Instead, share a comment or a story about your own significant other and if they want to share, they will respond in kind. You may then follow up with more specific questions about their family.

Caution: As with many straight people, politics and religion are generally not good topics for small talk.  Even if you think you’re safe with a comment like, “How ‘bout that Supreme Court marriage decision?  I bet you’re super excited!” be aware that, like straight people, gay people have nuanced and complicated views.  Respect their depth and diversity of thought just as you would a straight person’s thoughts.

After that, anything goes! Be sure to explore in more depth any shared interests or other things you have in common. You may already know how to do this from the conversations you have had with straight people.

Conclusion

Finally, say goodbye before you go. Similar to straight people, gay people like their conversations to have a definite end.

TL/DR: You talk to a gay person the same way you talk to a straight person.

Bonus guide: How to talk to transgender people – Go back to the beginning of this post.  Replace every usage of “gay” with “transgender.”

TL/DR: You talk to a transgender person the same way you talk to a straight person.

Note: This silliness inspired by a piece advising us all on how to convert “the gays” to Christianity.  The piece was titled “How to talk to the gays,” and this post was the first place my brain went.

Toddler tantrums

Everyone who has not had children knows that toddlers only ever scream or have tantrums while safely at home out of the public eye.  In the event that a toddler decides to start screaming in public, everyone knows that the parent ought to be able to calm the child.  In fact, plenty of parents will jump in here and agree that it’s always possible to calm or quiet a screaming child in public, because children with varying personalities and levels of development are magically all the same in this one regard.  But on the off chance that you fail as a parent and cannot calm your child, well then it is your Sacred Duty™ to remove the child so you don’t risk offending anyone else.

Never mind that you have no other opportunity to get your grocery shopping done or stop at the post office or pick up your glasses – thou shalt not, under any circumstances, remain in public with a screaming child.  It’s the 11th Commandment – look it up.  Why would you think it’s okay for you to finish up your errand?  How entitled are you?

Any parent out in public with a screaming toddler should be prepared (and grateful!) when strangers scold them for their inadequate parenting skills.  They should bow their heads meekly and accept an exhortation to “Go to hell!” as if it were the most benign of blessings.  It is, of course, the parent’s fault in the first place for even HAVING children.  It is further the height of irresponsibility to have children while single and without having at least two forms of backup childcare available whenever you need to go grocery shopping; how dare you inflict your irresponsible choices on me!

“But what does any of that have to do with anything?  The fact remains that I’m here, and my baby is here, and we both need to eat.  When exactly am I supposed to go to the store?”

You made your bed, now sleep in it!  Now that you’ve procreated irresponsibly, it’s on you to rearrange your schedule so that you’re not shopping at the same time that I am.

“But I can’t rearrange my schedule!  I only have daycare during the hours I’m in class, and I only have a very narrow window between class time and when the grocery store opens / closes!  I’m doing homework the rest of the time!”

Well you should have thought of that before you decided to breed.  Your kids are not my problem.  Period.  By the way, your defiant, entitled attitude isn’t earning you any sympathy.

“I don’t need your sympathy – your sympathy isn’t going to do my coursework, buy my groceries, or care for my children.”

*Scoff*  Parents these days.

“Entitled” to babysitting?

I ran across this post, and I was really taken aback by all the snark.  Why was I surprised?  It is the internet after all.  I guess I just expect more of people.  It’s a character flaw.

Here’s my response:

To me, the mission-critical elements are –

“[Mark] and his wife, “Sue”, are always offering to watch our children so we can go on a date because we never get the chance. Then when we actually need help, they never follow through.”

And –

“Mark & Sue have also implied they would want us to babysit when their children are born …”

This. Right here.

Yes, yes, no one is entitled to have anyone else babysit for them, but “good friends” don’t make idle offers. If they do, they’re not good friends. You and your fiance are perfectly justified in being frustrated with them.

That said, I’m going to assume that Mark and Sue, since they don’t have children yet, don’t really appreciate how helpful it is to be able to get out of the house once in a while. So I would table this discussion until their own child is born and then THEY want to get out for an evening. I see a couple possible outcomes –

1) You all develop a rhythm where you fairly and equitably trade babysitting services; or
2) You babysit for them (once, maybe twice) without reciprocation. After that, I would be “busy” anytime they ask until they reciprocate.

As far as the bachelor party specifically …. as long as not too much planning has been done, I’m actually on your fiance’s side here. If I’m reading your submission correctly, and your fiance says he would rather have a night out with you than a bachelor party, he should stick to his guns. There’s no law that says he HAS to have a bachelor party, and if Mark is willing to go to the effort to do something for your fiance like plan a bachelor party, he should be willing to go to the effort to babysit, especially since he had offered to babysit, multiple times, LONG before he even thought about planning the bachelor party.

Also, regarding the weirdness about guys babysitting … that just seems a little over-the-top.  But then again, maybe I’m biased because my husband is a stay-at-home dad, so he’s alone with the kids every day.  Plus, plenty of women are lethally abusive to children, so it would seem to me that having gender-specific hangups about who watches your children is a little old-fashioned.