The 11 Most Awkward Social Media Moments—Solved!
Between reading uncomfortable rants or getting caught Facebook stalking, social media opens up a whole new world of #awkwardmoments. Here’s how to tackle them.
Your friend posts political rants you don’t want to see
You open your feed to yet another long-winded political rant that makes your blood boil. Instead of lashing out with your own snarky response, change your settings so you don’t need to see those posts. Hide the person’s updates or delete the friend if it’s someone you rarely see in real life, says New York-based etiquette expert “Mister Manners” Thomas Farley. If it’s someone close to you, consider mentioning face-to-face that you think the person should cut down on the controversial posts. Political views tend to be pretty set in stone, so social media posts, no matter how well written, will rarely change another person’s views dramatically—but your friend could be ruining relationships without realizing it, says Farley. “You have so many people who are in some way, shape, or form in your life for a reason, and could very quickly leave your life for the things you’re posting,” he says. “It’s not worth it.” (Find out more relationship-harming social media mistakes here.)
A group of friends posts pictures to an activity that you weren’t invited to
You’re scrolling and find a picture of your group of friends at an activity that you were never invited to. You might feel rejected, but keep in mind that you don’t know the context—maybe there was a guest list limit, or maybe they assumed you wouldn’t be interested. “We have to remember that we don’t have to be included in every single function,” says Diane Gottsman, national etiquette expert and owner of The Protocol School of Texas. “That group has the right to select who they want to be with that night. It doesn’t mean they won’t invite you the next time.” But if you still feel it’s a personal dig, like the first time your four best friends got together without you, call the one you’re closest to for an explanation. Just make sure your tone shows you’re sincerely curious about the reasoning, rather than angry at being left out, says Gottsman. (Find out which pictures you should never share on social media.)
Someone leaves a negative comment on your post
You wrote what you thought was an innocent post then someone replies with a snarky comment criticizing your values. Before you react harshly to them, reread what you wrote, and delete the post if you realize that what you said could have accidentally come off as offensive, says Farley. After all, it’s hard to interpret tone via writing, so you might need to reword it. If it’s clear that the other person simply misinterpreted what you said, explain your thought process and apologize for the misunderstanding—just make sure to do it face-to-face or over the phone. “Continuing the dialogue in the virtual space is not going to help,” says Farley. “It will turn into a ping pong match that the world can see.”
You’re digging deep into someone’s feed and accidentally hit “like”
You got distracted looking at old pictures of a friend who you haven’t spoken to in a while, when you accidentally “like” one of the posts. Uh oh. You’ve just outed yourself for Facebook stalking. No need to freak out though—the other person probably won’t think anything of it. “That’s what social media is for—to look and to scroll. That’s why we post things,” says Gottsman. “Everybody Facebook stalks, whether we want to admit it or not.” If anything, the person will probably be flattered that you took the time to look through so many photos, she says. (Here’s how to avoid more awkward situations.)
Your post starts a comments war
One friend comments on your post supporting what you say, and another unrelated friend replies to that with strongly worded disagreement. Next thing you know, two people who don’t know each other are launching World War III, thanks to your conversation starter. To simmer down the heated debate, delete either the comments or the post itself, says Farley. “It’s only going to throw gasoline on the fire for those who think the same way as these two who are suddenly hot and bothered,” he says. Then message each of the debaters individually to apologize for deleting what they said and explain that you just wanted to remove the negativity. (Don’t miss these other etiquette tips for modern annoyances.)
You feel guilty ignoring a friend request
Someone you haven’t spoken to since high school just added you as a friend. The person isn’t a stranger, but you’re not sure if you want to give out access to your personal posts. Your privacy is your decision, so hit ignore right away so you don’t have to ask yourself again every time you log on, says Gottsman. No need to feel guilty—the other person probably won’t even notice. “Often times they’re offered different suggestions of people you may know. They’re hitting check, check, check,” she says. “They’ll pick up the phone and talk if they really want to talk. There are still other forms of communication.”
No one is RSVPing to the event you created
You set up a Facebook event weeks ago for your dinner party, but now it’s the week of, and only three people have given solid answers. “We have this paralysis when it comes to invites where we don’t want to say yes and we don’t want to say no, so instead we say nothing,” says Farley. “It’s unfair to anyone planning a party and has no idea of what the numbers are.” Don’t be afraid to give friends a nudge if you need a head count, he says. Post a reminder on the page, and reach out directly to friends who you particularly want to come. (Check out these other little etiquette rules you should always follow.)
Your teenage niece is posting party photos
Found some worrisome pictures of your underage niece partying hard? Whatever you do, don’t leave leave a comment about how inappropriate the photo is, says Farley. If the pictures could affect the child’s chances of getting into college or landing a job—like photos of the minor drinking alcohol—express your concern to the parents. But if you’re just judging the teen’s questionable yet safe choices, keep your opinions to yourself, says Gottsman. “If you feel like the child is going to be in danger, as an adult and family member, you would consider talking to the parents about it,” she says. “If it’s just at a party and you think the dress is too short, that’s subjective to the parents.” (These are things you should never share about your children on social media.)
An acquaintance is venting about his personal life
Someone you’re friends with on social media seems to be going through some tough times. How far should you go in showing concern? If it’s a very good friend, they deserve a phone call after a devastating life event. For anyone else, a supportive comment will suffice. “The greatest comfort may be that 80 people commented on that post,” says Farley. “It might be better than a phone call because of the validation we feel when someone comments on our social media post.” But if the person is constantly complaining or sharing vague woe-is-me posts, don’t feed into the attention-seeking, he says. Ignore the posts from an acquaintance, and express your concern for a close friend face-to-face so you can have a more heartfelt conversation.
Someone posted picture proof that you lied about your plans
You got out of plans by lying that your kid was sick, but the truth is that something better came up with another group of friends. Now people keep posting pictures from the night, blowing your cover. You know you shouldn’t have canceled your original plans in the first place, but now you have to deal with the consequences. “You can pray they don’t notice and don’t say anything,” says Gottsman. “They might be too polite to mention, but you’ve hurt their feelings.” Make amends by owning up to what you did. Apologize as soon as you see the photos so that your friend can hear it straight from you instead of getting caught off guard from the photos, she says.
Your friend hasn’t responded to your private message
You sent your friend a direct message on social media days ago, but have yet to hear back. Don’t jump to conclusions—the person probably hasn’t seen the message yet. Your friend might not check social media often, or maybe the notification never popped up. “If you really want them to see it, send a text or pick up the phone,” says Gottsman. (Find out what you should never, ever do over text message.)