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Creepy behavior in social media

I had a situation in Facebook that ended badly the other day.

I use Facebook to interact with a combination of friends and colleagues. It's hard for me to draw the line between friend and colleague in many cases, because I go to science fiction and fantasy conventions and have friendly good times with speculative fiction people who may or may not confide things during jolly conversations with drinks. I try to stay in touch with as many people as I can on a mild, social-media level of interaction. Most of them are not super-close, but they're not non-friends, either. Calling them acquaintances seems kind of distant, in most cases. So I meet people, a lot of them, and they're around on Facebook. I don't put terribly personal information on my profile, but I post pictures and I joke around.

This story is about a guy who started to act strangely. I'm not going to post his name.

I'd met him in person on a couple of occasions and had conversations with him that didn't last long. He seemed fine. He doesn't live near me. He would post comments on my Facebook status updates, and we were mutual followers on Twitter. I would reply. But at some point, the tone of his comments changed, and he started to slip insinuations into what he said. Nothing terribly out there. Nothing so wrong that I would immediately tell him I didn't like it. But it was a half-flirtatious, half-snide, not-quite-appropriate vibe. At one point I was annoyed enough to ask what was up with a repeating type of comment he made, and he treated it like a joke and started to repeat that kind of comment more often, which I didn't think was cute. I decided to ignore him from then on unless he posted inoffensive comments, which he did a couple of times. I replied to those. But then he posted a comment that involved me rubbing food all over my body.

I thought about sending him a private message to tell him to back off, but by that point I thought, no, I'd like to state this more strongly and in front of witnesses. I posted in the comment thread that I wanted him to stop it, and that I wasn't there to be harassed, and I didn't want him to post "just kidding" because I didn't want to hear it. This was after a couple of months of annoyance and trying to figure out how to deal with this. Maybe he was just joking around, but whether he intended to joke or not, I think that there are objective standards about appropriate behavior, and the comment he made crossed the boundary into inappropriateness.

The result was that he deleted his comment and unfriended me on Facebook and unfollowed me on Twitter. I can't say that I miss him, but he could have saved the moment if he'd either apologized or simply carried on with being an online acquaintance in an appropriate way. Misunderstandings happen, and I can get over them. But I couldn't let the situation go, and not say anything, because I was starting to have a bad feeling about it. I would cringe when I saw a notification that he'd posted a comment. It was taking the fun out of Facebook, and I was also censoring my status updates when I thought they might provide openings for the way he'd started to behave.

I'm posting this here as a reminder that women have to be careful. Everyone has to be careful. There's no way to know what's going on when an online or even mostly-online acquaintance makes remarks that crowd the boundary between comfortable and uncomfortable. Using some restraint in social media helps to keep things more friendly and less defensive.

Comments

( 20 comments — Leave a comment )
colubra
Aug. 23rd, 2010 07:04 pm (UTC)
I recently had someone go from 'hey, you crossed a line there' to 'you're really an asshole' in response to me agreeing with her point, once she'd made it. I'm still blissfully happy to have encouraged her to never comment on my LJ again by way of banning her from doing so.

I think one of the problems here is that people are used to the audio / bodylanguage cues that mean 'ok, stop now'- and have trouble grasping that there's a point they should stfu on their own.
nayad
Aug. 23rd, 2010 09:28 pm (UTC)
Yes. It's hard to know how people are reacting to what we post, so some self-monitoring is important.
ex_maehymn
Aug. 23rd, 2010 07:04 pm (UTC)
Dude, I feel ya! I had a similar situation happen on Lj a few years ago and it was awkward and weird and creepy. I'm glad you stood up to this person, and honored your bad feeling. Shit like that is NOT what this is all about.

Also, I'm pretty sure that if someone is truly joking and truly cares, they would apologize for offending. I think the fact that he didn't confirms your gut feeling that he was up to something distasteful.

Somehow I missed all this on your FB! I hope you have better experiences in the future.
nayad
Aug. 23rd, 2010 09:30 pm (UTC)
I agree--the way he unfriended me, as if I'd been offensive to HIM, made me feel like I'd done the right thing by saying something.
aenodia
Aug. 23rd, 2010 07:12 pm (UTC)
I applaud you stating your boundaries. It sounds like you handled this well.
nayad
Aug. 23rd, 2010 09:31 pm (UTC)
Thank you!
jongibbs
Aug. 23rd, 2010 07:48 pm (UTC)
Some people have a problem understanding the principle of personal boundaries and what is (or is not) acceptable to do and say.

Such folks don't even notice the subtle hints to back off a little (like the one you described).

I wouldn't worry about it. Chances are, he'll realize what a twit he was (though he'll be embarrassed at being told off in public). If and when you see him in person again, he'll apologize and you'll probably tell him not to worry. If he doesn't, then he probably is a jerk, in which case you did the right thing.

Hope that helps :)
nayad
Aug. 23rd, 2010 09:33 pm (UTC)
Yes. I hope that he realizes, and behaves well when I see him--which I probably will sometime, but I doubt it'll be until at least next year. If he behaves badly, I'll have plenty of other people around to talk to instead.
brdgt
Aug. 23rd, 2010 08:06 pm (UTC)
Sounds like a "nice" guy.
nayad
Aug. 23rd, 2010 09:35 pm (UTC)
Maybe. I don't know him even well enough to know that!
fingle
Aug. 23rd, 2010 08:26 pm (UTC)
Good advice! A majority of my Facebook friends are my ballet company peeps, and I have to carefully pick and choose to whom I respond and how I phrase things, because of the whole "young women - older man" thing. I often think of something funny to say to something they've posted, then play it back in my mind from the viewpoint of an outsider and think better of responding at all. It's one thing if it's my teen-aged dauther, but quite another if it's one of my friends from class.

Sometimes I also want to shout helpful advice at them, but I don't want to sound like, you know, Dad.
nayad
Aug. 23rd, 2010 09:40 pm (UTC)
That's a good way to think about it. If I know someone really well, I can enjoy edgier behavior from him if he's shown over time that he's not a jerk. But if I don't know someone, I can only go by the evidence I see. If he's throwing out the wrong kind of remarks with little regard for my reactions, he becomes someone I don't want to deal with.
fingle
Aug. 24th, 2010 06:50 am (UTC)
You can generally judge a man by the comments he leaves on other people's blogs and what-not. I try to maintain a polite but interested distance when I comment on a lady's post, but if it's an actual acquaintance, I can have a bit more fun. But I still maintain a distance, even though I'm pretty much madly in love with every lady I meet. It's genetic! I loves the ladies! :)
nayad
Aug. 25th, 2010 02:40 pm (UTC)
From what I've seen, I think you've found the right balance of playfulness and respectfulness! :)
j_cheney
Aug. 23rd, 2010 09:22 pm (UTC)
But then he posted a comment that involved me rubbing food all over my body.

Ew. Just...ew...
nayad
Aug. 23rd, 2010 09:41 pm (UTC)
Exactly.
sasha_feather
Aug. 24th, 2010 01:29 pm (UTC)
Yikes. Sounds like you handled it well.
nayad
Aug. 25th, 2010 02:40 pm (UTC)
Thanks!
therinth
Aug. 25th, 2010 02:44 am (UTC)
I'm glad he's gone now. Women need to follow their guts. There's too many creeps out there, by far.
nayad
Aug. 25th, 2010 02:43 pm (UTC)
Definitely--we need to listen to ourselves! I can think of a few times when I ignored "red flags" and regretted it, but I can't think of a single time when I regretted distancing myself from a creepy-seeming person.
( 20 comments — Leave a comment )

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