As I walked out of the local grocery store this past Thursday, I felt a swing in my step mostly because my straight pencil skirt I had worn to work that day felt a bit looser than usual. I wondered if that huge stride I had taken earlier getting out of my car had possibly ripped my skirt but I quickly suppressed such a possibility thinking that, of course, if my skirt ripped someone for sure would have already told me about it. Right? Of course right!

So, I continued to walk with confidence out of the supermarket, towards my car, feeling a slight draft from behind. Unintentionally, I slipped my hand onto my rear end and, lo and behold, my skirt wasn’t slightly ripped: It was completely exposed!

I quickly jumped into my car and drove home. Hoping that there would not be any neighbors around when I made it there while attempting the quick 100 meter dash to the safety of my apartment. Luckily, with only a few school girls in front when I got there, I ran into the apartment praying for a quick and speedy salvation.

My daughter consoled me by reminding me of how lucky I was that I was wearing full coverage black underwear that day, the same color as my skirt. “Mom, what if you were wearing red underwear or even worse, your g-string!” Love, love, love teenage daughters. They always look at the bright side of life.

But why didn’t anyone tell me??? Is it better to save the person from the embarrassment of one awkward moment, as opposed to the humiliation of many, many more?

Another similar incident happened this past week when I decided to go and visit my editor. As I was heading out I applied a fresh coat of lipstick like I always do whenever I have a meeting.

I arrived at his office and at first we were just sitting and chatting, as usual, when I started to notice that his eyes kept wandering to my mouth. He seemed uncomfortable but I wasn’t sure why. I lifted up my finger and rubbed my teeth and a big red blotch appeared on my fingers. “Why didn’t you tell me I have lipstick on my teeth???” I asked him, appalled that he would allow me to go out into the world this way!

50 shades of red

He sheepishly replied that he wasn’t sure if it was better to say something to me or to just save me the embarrassment. I told him to look at me and listen carefully.

“Let’s just be clear on this one. If I have lipstick on my teeth, or my skirt is tucked into my underwear, or I have a black smudge on my chin from a marker, or my skirt is see-through or anything, ANYTHING at all that would be even borderline embarrassing, you tell me!!! Capiche???”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gMl7tClfJFE

These situations are uncomfortable but definitely solvable if you consider your social responsibility towards someone by saving them from further humiliation and degradation. These situations only occur in our personal, face-to-face, real-time relationships. The etiquette is clear: “See the bigger picture and take responsibility!”

Where does a virtual relationship become personal? How do we bridge the gap between what is proper and accepted good manners in person, as opposed to what is okay in our virtual lives? Someone recently asked me the following question:

Dear Devora,

 

What happens after a break up regarding social media? What is considered amicable, acceptable, and just plain cruel? Do you continue to follow each other on Facebook and Twitter or just break off all contact?

 

Sincerely,

“Let’s not be” Facebook friends

Dear Un-tweetable,

 

Anyone who uses social media tools knows very well that there is a fine line between what is acceptable and what is not in the world of virtual relationships. I doubt that there is one person who has not faced these issues regarding the overlap of their personal and public profiles and tried best to figure out how to manage it all without feeling overwhelmed.

 

Some people create separate Facebook accounts for social or professional groups they belong to. Others, have a very stringent privacy setup on their accounts allowing only their very close friends and family to view their otherwise personal material.

 

It is almost inevitable that when you become involved with a person on a more intimate level, you will ultimately exchange Facebook accounts to “check each other out”.

 

Many times using their profile as a gauge for their personalities helps you assess whether or not they are loners with only 45 Facebook friends, anti-establishment with no Facebook account at all, or just overly social and aggrandizing: a people pleaser with over 1000 “friends” whom they don’t even really know.

 

When you are virtual friends, and things are going well then it is hard to see a problem with this great form of communication.

 

All of a sudden, when a relationship comes to an end, what becomes of our unfriendly friend? I have heard people talk about it and I know that I have experienced it personally myself.

 

Here’s where we need to define the rules: What does it take for someone to be restricted or to be completely cut out of the loop?

 

Clear cut:

1) Someone who continues to stalk you even though you have made it clear that you want no further contact with them.

2) Someone who has been offensive or rude

3) Someone who continues to comment inappropriately on your photos and status up-dates. For example, “Hey babe. That’s one hot dress. Too bad my hands weren’t all over that!” would be sufficient enough to delete. Of course, if the person who says this is your boyfriend, then disregard.

 

Restricted:

1) If you break up with someone amicably but don’t want to have them perusing your entire life, just put them into the restricted list where they can only see your public posts. They have not been hurt by being deleted but they are not as privy to your life as they were before

2) If someone is just a fan or a friend of a friend and you aren’t really sure who or what they are, put them on your restricted list until you get to know them better.

3) Your parents, their family and your kids. They don’t need to see your life any more than the public does. When you are out partying one night, you don’t need the entire extended family to know all about it. Trust me.

 

Keep in mind that proper etiquette is key in all situations.

Deleting someone from facebook or twitter can be both hurtful and harmful especially if there is a chance you will be friends or in touch again. It will be hard to justify that move and will definitely put a damper on your relationship. If you are a person who prefers more privacy, before you delete an ex or someone you want to cut off with, have the courtesy to write them a letter or a note just explaining why. It may be virtual but it still hurts.

__

If you would like your questions answered here, please feel free to send an email to devora.mason@gmail.com with the subject “Ask Devora”