Online pity parties don’t elicit hugs

Dear Amy: An old school friend of mine posts often on Facebook. Her updates are mostly upbeat, entertaining, and harmless.

Over a decade ago, both her brother and her father died of unexpected illnesses. A sad situation, of course. Her mother and one remaining sibling are still alive, and they are close.

However, all these years later, she posts about her father and brother on FB regularly, noting, “Today would have been H’s 55th birthday. I can’t believe he’s gone…” accompanied by pictures, including (depressingly) photos of him in the hospital. Or: “Today marks 10 years since Dad started his treatment — greatest Dad ever.” Again, sad and depressing photos.

She always gets lots of sympathetic reactions to these posts.

Amy, it is exhausting and inappropriate to see these online pity parties of hers. Everyone suffers loss. But no one else I know insists on getting attention for those losses, especially monthly (or more!), so many years after they happened. For everyone else but her, it seems, grief is NOT to be flogged online for everyone else to see.

She is a successful person with a great family and a full life. Her grief over her loss is no more important, or tragic, than the losses we have ALL endured, and yet, continue she does — and it makes me angry every time.

How can I let her know how utterly inappropriate these posts are?

— Grieved-Out

Dear Grieved Out: Facebook’s algorithm kicks into gear each day to remind users of items they originally posted about years ago. If her family members entered the hospital, had a birthday, or passed away and she posted about it then (she obviously did), Facebook will remind her of these events now. She is being regularly triggered, and then she is choosing to share.

I happen to agree with you regarding what feel like beseeching entreaties for virtual hugs on social media.

But — guess what? — other people don’t feel that way. And the true beauty of the freedom of expression that social media platforms offer is this: people can say whatever they want. That includes you.

You seem to want to inspire this person to change her behavior, through some magical statement you might compose. But — if you did that, and she wasn’t too wounded to respond, she might well say (to you): “If you don’t like what I post, then don’t ‘follow’ me!”

If you do choose to admonish her, do so via private message. Be aware, however, that she could then choose to post your statement, inspiring another round of “hugs.”

Dear Amy: My 50-year-old long-term girlfriend is driving me crazy with her habit of saying, “You know…”

We live separately during the week and speak on the phone each evening. Last night I did some tallying: 65 “You knows” in 15 minutes, often six or seven per minute. The extreme was five times in 10 seconds!

It is just so distracting and boring. This wonderful college-educated person is very pleasant and well-informed. Of course, the habit is so ingrained that she is totally unaware.

Mentioning it would do nothing; I doubt she can change.

I believe a “deaf” ear is my only answer; any ideas?

I DO Know

Dear DO Know: My family recently pointed out my own annoying verbal tic (evidently, I declare many things and people to be “legendary”). This knowledge gave me the opportunity to change. (And so, from now on, only I will be “legendary.”)

Give your partner the same opportunity. Tell her that you find this rapid-fire verbal tic annoying (surely, others do, too), and challenge her to try to change.

Nothing helps us notice things about ourselves as well as viewing, or listening, to a recording. Ask her, “Hey, I double-dog challenge you not to use ‘you know’ any time for 10 minutes. Can I record you?” She will take up the challenge (because she doesn’t believe she does this so often).

Engage in normal conversation. Do not interrupt or prompt her at all. Afterward, send her a sound file, without comment, and let her hear what you’ve been hearing.

Dear Amy: Thank you for printing the letter from “Survivor of Family Intervention” who modified her behavior after her children complained about her political rants on social media.

My stereotype of a person who rants on social media is someone who just wants to reinforce their own opinions without looking at facts or caring what others think. I love having my expectations challenged.


Dear Challenged: It’s fun to bust up a stereotype.