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.