Social media has brought a whole new type of relationships into our lives. This week, I was upset to discover that a blog I had been following has disappeared, and the author with it. Now I have never met this woman, but reading her personal essays about her divorce and her family touched something in me. I felt a bond with her and I was genuinely saddened and concerned to not be able to find her online. So many times I find myself lately trying to understand and negotiate different types of relationships in this new world of social media.
All relationships, especially those involved in “custom made” families (divorced, separated, blended), are complicated to begin with. Families are challenged with finding the best way to include and accommodate everyone when negotiating holidays and special family events. Our family has bumped and bumbled our way through things like special birthdays and graduation parties but for the most part, we’ve usually managed to figure it all out. Now, we’ve added another level of complicated to our ever evolving relationships; Facebook! I have to admit I’ve enjoyed finding people I haven’t seen in years and being able to keep up with the kids when they are far from home but with this new media also come all those awkward social online situations where the rules aren’t quite defined yet.
At first, I think most of us “friended” almost everyone, or accepted their friend requests if they initiated it. We were excited to collect friends and make connections. Then, some of it just got awkward, weird, and uncomfortable. Of course, my kids say it got weird the minute I joined! I was invading their space but Facebook soon became something that wasn’t just for their generation any more. Businesses and colleges began to use social media as well. There came a point when not being versed in social media could actually work against you in the work force.
Yet, for custom made families there are special challenges. Do you friend your x-spouse’s new partner or just ignore the fact that he or she now comments on things the rest of your family says and does? How do you handle Xs? Maybe the occasional extra special Xs can be Facebook friends but I really think they are the exception. Even though I have reasonably cordial relationships with my Xs I just don’t want them to know every detail of my personal life. For me, that just crosses a line.
What about the other relationships you share with the Xs in your life? Should you be friends online with your former in-laws? My children are now at the age that they have X-relationships as well. Should I stay friends with their Xs online? How about the new relationships? More than once I have accepted a friend request from the boyfriend of one of my best friends, only to awkwardly wonder what to do when the relationships ends? I think the idea is to not only consider friend requests carefully, but to learn to think for a few minutes before we comment or post. Maybe we need to learn to be more sensitive to the feelings of the people who may be reading what we say and not so concerned about getting our own point across. The internet can feel so comfortable and anonymous sometimes. We have to keep in mind just how many people read what we say and how we may unintentionally hurt someone.
What about the family you used to only see at Thanksgiving, now we get to spend time with them online, year round. There is the aunt who keeps sending you invitations to take her little quizzes, the cousin who does nothing but play Farmville or Bejeweled. There is the sister of your best friend who seems to stalk you and comments on every single thing you or anyone else ever says or does on your wall. Then there are the over sharers, the ones who have to tell you every, single, sorted detail of every day! How about those suggestions Facebook makes about who you should be friends with! How many times do you have to say “no thank you” before they stop suggesting that guy who picked on you in high school. I don’t care how many friends we have in common!
In general, I try not to say anything on anyone’s wall that would embarrass them, especially my adult children. I also try to respect my friends and relatives who have different political or religious views. I will post my own political rants on my wall, but not on theirs. Like in real life I try to proceed with caution. I try not to take things too seriously. I try to cut everyone else a little slack and above all else I try to just be kind. That would work in so many of these situations wouldn’t it. It’s so simple, just be kind.
Putting yourself out there online, whether on Facebook or a blog, especially after a divorce when you are most vulnerable, can be so scary, so let’s all be gentle with each other, okay!
If you are out there fellow blogger, we all understand if you just needed to step back a bit, to try to figure it all out without an audience. We’re here when you are ready to come back. However, I recommend the first step would be to “un-friend” your x-husband!