The Friendship Doctor

Send in your friendship questions and quandaries and get expert answers and solutions

How to Handle A Facebook Frenemy

Facebook has added a new layer of complexity to the world of friendship

QUESTION

Dear Irene,

After years of friendship, my relationship with a colleague was damaged while both of us were enduring major losses in our lives. I think I managed to keep my issues out of the workplace, but hers caused her to be very angry. Unfortunately, most of her anger was directed at me. I suppose she decided I was the weakest link at the time.

She was nasty to everyone around her but even they would admit that her new hobby was attacking me. It was so stressful that my heart beat faster when I saw her name in my inbox; there was a good chance the message would be some kind of attack or insult. I eventually removed myself from the toxic situation several years ago and gained some distance between us. Since that time, I speak when spoken to, basically, but never reach out or contact her. She is no longer my colleague and I do not HAVE to stay connected although we do have mutual friends.

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She recently sent me a friend request on Facebook and I accepted it, thinking that if I didn't, she would interpret that as a rejection and start attacking again. In hindsight, I wish I had ignored it because she then sent me a very nasty Facebook message. It was inappropriate and unprovoked, but it showed who she is at her core -- somebody who isn't a nice person.

I think I have four options: Respond (which isn't really a choice as far as I'm concerned); Do nothing; Hide my wall and its comments from her (so that my name doesn't show up on her news feed and remind her that she hasn't attacked me lately) or Unfriend her. What do you think I should do?

Thanks!
Ms. No Name


ANSWER

Dear Ms. No Name,

Facebook has added a new layer of complexity to the world of friendship---both in terms of whom we friend and defriend, and in terms of how we hande online frenemies. You aren't the only one grappling with these problems. (BTW - complicated Facebook privacy settings don't make it any easier!)

In this case, your once-real friend is still a hostile person. This time it seeped out in the form of a nasty Facebook message. You have learned a hard lesson: Time may pass but character endures. So what do you do now? You have no obligation or reason to respond to a vicious email so I'm glad you eliminated that option.

You shouldn't have to worry about a frenemy lurking each time you post so I would hide your wall and comments from her. The only reason to keep her as a Facebook "friend" would be to keep an eye on her and on your reputation.

Yuk! So sorry this happened to you.

Best,
Irene

 

This is a "lifeline" question: Anyone else have a similar problem---how did you resolve it?

 

Irene S. Levine, Ph.D., is a psychologist and professor of psychiatry at the NYU School of Medicine. Her latest book is Best Friends Forever: Surviving a Breakup With Your Best Friend.

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