5th March 2024

A Virtual World of Live Pictures

Technology and Computer

Carolyn Hax: Time to remove struggling friend’s social media crutch?

Adapted from an online discussion.

Dear Carolyn: My good friends from college get together only six or so times a year, but we stay in touch through social media. One friend spends a self-admitted massive amount of time and energy creating a social media image of a perfect family life that is far from reality. In fact, she wants to leave her husband, who checked out of the marriage years ago, but feels it’s not financially viable to do so.

Some members of the friend group feel this is a crutch that keeps her from doing something productive about her situation, and want to have an “intervention.” I think it gets her through the lonely days, so who am I to judge?

Friend: When someone admits she image-curates to feel less miserable and stuck, my first impulse is not to say, wow, you need group-correcting, stat!

She’s asking for friends, love, support, encouragement, and maybe actions or solutions. Useful responses to that: “Do you want suggestions or just an ear?” “I am here to help. Would X be useful?”

After the group smacks down her crutch, what’s their plan for her? Have they thought through the obstacles she might face to finding healthier outlets — emotional, financial, marital, parental? Have they considered how they personally might help her overcome those obstacles without overstepping?

Take it from your friendly local inexpert: Telling people what they’re doing wrong is the easy part. Actually doing better is the hard part.

So please, use your standing as group member to ask more of all of you, collectively. “I’m not convinced what she needs from her friends right now is a group correction. That sounds so alienating to me. I think she needs ideas, options, support. What are we offering her in that regard?”

· Have the group “gather” without the troubled friend and talk about the support you as a group might be able to provide. Trying to help a friend in trouble individually can easily become overwhelming, where a group trying to help is much more manageable.

For example, friend A has extra room to give her a temporary place to land, friends B and C have no room but can help with X money for Y months while your friend looks for work. Friend D could watch friend’s kids during interviews, and friend E can work her network to help your friend land a decent job. Or whatever.

THEN you can approach your friend, not about stopping the image-curation but with offers of what you can do if she wants help making a change.

· This just seems so mean to me, so self-righteous and unkind — and, even assuming they’re all correct, unlikely to improve anything, and much more likely to make things worse. What happens when you take the crutch away, and who plans to be there to help?

· Social media is the new public square. Think of all the past generations who proudly walked into church in their Sunday best despite all that was going on at home. It’s her right to post whatever she feels like.

· Has anyone in the group tried to talk to her, one on one? I am really uncomfortable about the idea of the whole “group” talking about her like this, or even strategizing as a group for her. The most likely outcome of this is the woman will be completely humiliated and will carry that humiliation with her from now on. She did not ask for help. They are being arrogant in their assumption they know what is best.