Trip Home Creates Social Media Dilemma

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Dear Miriam,

I just got back from a great Thanksgiving visiting family several hours away. We only go there a couple times a year, and we typically don’t have the time or bandwidth to see anyone besides family. We’re mindful not to post pictures on social media that say we’re there so that old friends don’t feel left out or try to make plans with us. But now that we’re back, several long-ago acquaintances are making comments on Facebook about how we didn’t make time for them. What do we do from here?

Signed,

Family before friends

 

Dear Family,

In a previous, pre-Facebook era, there may have been a handful of local bars where you’d be likely to run into former classmates, etc., if you chose to go there the night before Thanksgiving. Or you’d know that you’d be likely to run into acquaintances when you’re home for the holidays, and you could say hello in the grocery store without having to choose between making plans with them and censoring your own enjoyment.

Even in the age of social media, you’re absolutely right that you don’t owe anyone any portion of your precious vacation time or family time. Being clear with yourselves about your priorities is crucial, and it sounds like you’re doing just that. Now you have to decide if these long-ago acquaintances are worthy of the time it takes to explain your stance to them, or if, actually, they’re not relevant to your life at this point at all.

Posting pictures after the fact isn’t necessarily better, as you’ve discovered, and I do wonder about the need that so many of us have (me included!) to post something on Facebook or risk feeling like it didn’t really happen. It seems to me like you can either post your pictures and deal with the reactions, or post them and hide them from these friends (which also seems like extra work), or not post them at all and still know you had a wonderful visit with family.

You have to ask yourself what you hope to get out of being Facebook friends with these folks. You don’t want to see them, you don’t want to tell them about your whereabouts and you don’t like their comments, so what do you like about being connected to them? It’s OK to unfriend or hide things from them if they’re not enhancing your life, and you don’t owe them any of your social media time just like you don’t owe them any of your time in real life.

I also wonder, though, if you could take a different strategy. Maybe next time you’re heading that way, you could post beforehand that you’ll be there and, “We’re super busy, but maybe we’ll run into you around town!” so that they’re not caught off guard afterwards. Maybe you could name a cafe or park or other public location where you’ll conveniently be anyway from 12-1 p.m. on Friday if anyone wants to stop by. That way, you’re making yourselves available, and they have to decide how important it is to see you. Perhaps, if they can’t make time for it, they’ll understand how stretched thin you are and will drop the whole thing. Or, maybe, you’ll see each other for a little while, enjoy it enough and not have to do it again for a few years, with no hard feelings either way.

Be well,

Miriam