Adventures in the Tricky Art of Being an Honest Friend

"Scream" courtesy SXC

I got really angry with a friend on Facebook yesterday.  My first reaction was to send her an angry private message.  Unfortunately, I went with that first reaction.  I have a bad temper, especially when I feel there’s been an injustice done.

It was one of those “regret it the moment you hit ‘Send'” moments.  Shortly after, I sent another message. In that one, I apologized for my original rude and passive-aggressive message.  But because I value the friendship, I also stated, in a more respectful way, my honest reaction to something she’d done.

I expect my friends to cover my behavioral blind spots. If I’m behaving in a way that isn’t consistent with my values and beliefs, I want them to lovingly let me know.  I  missed the “lovingly” part in my first response to my friend, but  I never call out anyone I don’t consider a friend.

This whole exchange reminds me of something that’s been kind of bugging me lately.  There have been a regular flurry of blog posts among other social media nerds criticizing the behavior of other social media nerds.  But they’re done as “blind items.”  They call out specific instances of bad behavior on the part of specific people, but they don’t name names.

Something about this bugs me.  I appreciate the idea of presenting the caveat that “people are not always the awesome individual in real life that they seem on their blog or forum.”  HO-LEE-COW, do I recognize and agree that’s an important message to put out there…

If I’m acting like a jackass, I want to know.  But if I’m acting like a jackass, I probably don’t see it in myself.  More cognitive dissonance, methinks.

If you think someone’s being a jerk, it may just be that they’re reacting to a bad day, week, millennium.  You never know what’s going on in someone’s private life, no matter how “transparent” they may seem online.  Maybe what they need from you is some honesty, support and friendship.

Or maybe they’re experiencing some newfound success, and their head has gotten turned, temporarily.  Maybe what they need from you is mentoring, and some guidance in developing the character to handle success well.  Or just a private, loving kick in the butt/reality check.

Maybe they really are just a jerk. In which case, “outing” them without actually outing them is probably not going to have much effect.

If they’re a friend, in any sense of the word, you should tell them.  Tell them directly, kindly, honestly, and privately. Where it goes from there is really up to them.

Since it’s a bit hypocritical of me to criticize other bloggers without naming names for… criticizing other bloggers without naming names…I’m posting the ones that stick out in my head.  Any omissions are the result of my crappy memory, as opposed to outright hypocrisy. 😉

C.C. Chapman, on the WAH Factor

Olivier Blanchard, on Social Media rockstars

Liz Strauss, on social media reputations that are all spin


  1. ·

    Every community has these outbreaks of non-finger-pointing. I was heavily involved in the Lotus Notes world for a while and that kind of thing used to annoy the crap out of me, too. Someone would get bent out of shape over something someone else said or did, talk about it obliquely on their own blog, then contact a bunch of other people individually to talk about it in more detail. It really got tedious. I finally started blurting out the truth in the comments. That caused some sturm and drang, but I truly didn’t care who I upset. It was childish and obnoxious. If you’re going to play games don’t be surprised when someone dunks on you. 🙂

    There were a few times I contacted someone to let them know they were behaving in a way I found inappropriate or uncharacteristic. It was nearly always met with sincere appreciation. Either people didn’t realize they were doing it or they didn’t know they were being misunderstood.

  2. Kat French

    Now that you mention it, it does remind me of the behavior I used to see on the marriage forums, back when I was an active member of that community. “Tedious” is a really appropriate word for it.

    And my friend’s response was much like what you’re describing, sincere appreciation. When we talked it out, it was a case where she was being misunderstood because she didn’t realize how much additional context a person needed to understand what she actually meant to say.


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