How Facebook Can Be A Passive/Aggressive Wonderland

7 years ago

Last week my girlfriend, stood me up for breakfast. She'd suggested we get together, specified a time and then when the day came -- nothing. I waited a bit, did some errands and waited a bit more. Still nothing.

I eventually heard from her later that day and she apologized, but her excuse -- that she'd overslept and then forgotten we'd had plans -- didn't sit very well with me. But even though I was still angry, I dropped the subject.

Or did I?

As soon as I got off the phone, I fantasized about posting something on Twitter like, "Friends who stand up friends because they "forgot," should be boiled in oil!"

I told myself it was a way to wallow in self-righteous indignation with all my tweet peeps. But really it was because my friend sees my Twitter feeds on Facebook.  She would be certain to see my post.

Take that, forgetful friend!

I came to my senses and didn't do it. It's kind of like when I get so angry I want to break something, but I never do because I remind myself, I'm the one who'll have to clean it up.

Eventually my friend and I hashed it all out and moved on.  No passive aggression required.

But it got me to thinking about how easy it would have been to fire a cyber-salvo that could have jeopardized our longstanding friendship. All for a quick "take that" buzz. Like in junior high or high school, when we would tell someone something about a friend, fully knowing that person would tell the friend, and we wouldn't have to confront them ourselves.

Some of us outgrow that kind of behavior and some of us don't. Unfortunately, social media sites like Facebook and Twitter make it easier than ever to act in a passive aggressive manner.

The examples are everywhere. Jen Westmoreland Bouchard at the blog Lucidite recently wrote a post called, "The Medium is the Passive Aggressive Message." She wrote about a regional tendency toward passive aggression:

As I entered my “adult life” in Minnesota, I encountered a particular genre of passive aggression, one mediated by technology. I’ve learned that the media through which one chooses to “passively aggress” often reveals more than the words he or she uses. And man, there are some great options out there, depending on your flavor of passive aggression.

She goes on to give two fabulous examples: one email and one Facebook. Both are the kinds of things we've all seen too often.

Orthrus Black Shuck Anubis at The Joys of Divorce describes the behavior this way:

What I don’t understand are the people who specifically use Facebook as a secret weapon, or as some kind of weird competition. A weapon of mass destruction I like to call it. See now if only George Bush had looked on Facebook he would found what he was looking for all those years.

Then there's Freedom Reeves who posted a litmus test on her blog so people could figure out if they're a social media passive aggressive perpetrator. At the end of the post she gives the following, excellent advice:

The key to all of this social technology, in my humble opinion, is that it should encourage, not replace, good communication and healthy relationships. If you’re mad at someone, talk to them about it. If you can’t do that, then log off, stew in it for a while and let it go. If it’s not important enough to take to someone directly, it’s definitely not important enough to be on the internet.

Take that Facebook!

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Christal Roberts is a BlogHer contributing editor. You can follow her on Twitter @ChristalRoberts.


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