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Facebook friends with past abuser
July 13, 2009 11:27 AM   Subscribe

Facebook's forcing me to deal with a family rift.

I just found my older sister on Facebook. My younger sister would probably be very distressed if I added her because of past abuse. I miss my older sister and my her children, but don't want to cause any trouble.

In addition, I'm worried that as more of our extended family and old friends get connected, they will inevitably start asking why we aren't "friends". I don't want to answer and also don't want to be dishonest.

I guess this is more of a relationship problem masquerading as a technical problem. On the one hand, I'm kind of glad that it's coming up after a decade because, as said, I miss my family. On the other hand, I'd really like to avoid upsetting my younger sister or my parents by bringing this all up again.

I will not expand on the abuse, so don't ask. All that's relevant is she is not a danger to her kids.

Is there any way to keep separate friends lists on Facebook that I'm not seeing? Any way to hide certain things without basically making Facebook useless?

Has anyone been in a similar situation? How did you deal with it?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (22 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
Facebook added a 'friend list' feature recently whereby you can categorize friends, and you can do some things on a per-list basis, but I'm not sure if you can completely segregate members of different lists. I'd go to Facebook and give you more details, but my office blocks Facebook.

If it makes you feel any better, I don't have bad baggage you have, but I dislike Facebook for a similar reason: it dumps together the people I know from many different contexts: people from high school many decades ago, people I know from work, personal friends, friends from church, etc--some of these people (especially in the first two categories) I don't even consider 'friends', just acquaintances. I'm a pretty private person; I hate that jumble.
posted by tippiedog at 11:33 AM on July 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


If your older sister would be able to understand, you could ask her to block your other family members so they can't see that she's friends with you (and vice versa).
posted by greta simone at 11:33 AM on July 13, 2009


I'm Facebook friends with my uncle, aunt and cousins on Facebook, but not my mother, father or sibling. It doesn't betoken anything (I'm on excellent terms with my parents and sibling) and nobody has ever asked me about it, ever. I think you are overestimating what people infer from who's your friend on Facebook and who isn't.

Seems to me your only (Facebook-related) problem here is if you want to contact your older sister and Facebook is the only conceivable way of doing it.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 11:35 AM on July 13, 2009 [3 favorites]


You could put family in a group (I call mine "limited access") and basically lock everything that is visible to that group down (like who is on your friends list). I don't know if that will really help once everyone figures out who else is on Facebook and starts asking questions though. I just use it to keep family from seeing my friends' more...R-rated wall posts and comments.
posted by JoanArkham at 11:35 AM on July 13, 2009


If you want to get in contact with her, go ahead and email her. Facebook makes everything unnecessarily public and dramatic and I (as part of the target demographic) am getting thoroughly sick of how much boundaries have eroded as part of it.

If people ask, just say off-hand that you don't use FB much or that it never came up/occurred to you. It's not that much of a stretch - people that I'm actually close to I wouldn't talk to over FB, so I probably wouldn't notice if they deleted me.
posted by Phire at 11:55 AM on July 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


It looks like you can block certain people from seeing your friends list. Go to Settings > Privacy Settings and scroll down to Frieds (7th one down). Then go into "customize" and you should be able to enter the people who you want your friends list blocked from.
posted by triggerfinger at 11:56 AM on July 13, 2009


Phire has it right. Email your sister. Skip the Facebook drama. If you want to talk to your older sister, that's between you and her, and there's no need to let anyone else know if it would unnecessarily upset them.
posted by decathecting at 12:02 PM on July 13, 2009


Facebook added a 'friend list' feature recently whereby you can categorize friends, and you can do some things on a per-list basis, but I'm not sure if you can completely segregate members of different lists.

Nope, at least not like I think anon wants to. You can let different friends see different information about you, but you can pick a given friend and only either let them see who all your friends are (except those who have made themselves invisible on their end), or who none of your friends are.

So anon could make it so younger sister couldn't see who any of anon's friends are, including older sister (Settings - Privacy Settings - scroll down to "Friends," pick "Customize..." then add younger sister to the "Except these people" list), but that might raise other questions if younger sister had been able to see anon's friends list before and noticed the change. There's no way AFAIK to prevent only older sister from being seen by younger sister on anon's friend list.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 12:04 PM on July 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


Maybe if you're feeling really generous you could set up a whole new facebook account on a different email (Can't have two accounts on one email) and just add your older sister as your friend, so she feels like youre at least trying to keep up to speed with her. You can set up your 2nd account to be blocked from all searchs, just display a first name etc etc... so itd just be you and her.
posted by Groovytimes at 12:11 PM on July 13, 2009


You can send messages to a person on Facebook without adding each other. Just do that.
posted by Nattie at 12:12 PM on July 13, 2009


Followup to my previous comment: You'd also want to either block younger sister from seeing friends' posts on your wall or block older sister from posting on your wall. Ditto for responses to your wall posts. And for posting photos tagged of you. You know, the more I think about this, the more problematic it seems to prevent younger sister from knowing you're "friends" with older sister, unless you block younger sister from seeing nearly everything about you. It's probably just best to avoid adding older sister as a "friend" at all.

You can, however, send older sister a message through FB without adding her as a friend, unless older sister has blocked that, and I believe that's not visible to anyone else.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 12:14 PM on July 13, 2009


I don't believe you can block groups from seeing each other, which is a shame because that's exactly what stops me from using Facebook much.

But I may be wrong, not sure how these new features work.
posted by rokusan at 12:16 PM on July 13, 2009


A couple years ago I added an estranged family member on facebook. Nothing much came of it, but then there's not quite the same bad blood between us that your family appears to have - at the same time I think that if I had seen, say, my older sister and that family member talking on facebook through wall posts and the like, I would have felt pretty hurt. You're not your sister's keeper, but it seems like you care about her feelings, and this seems likely to wound them.

You're right that it's not facebook that's the issue: it's the tangled, painful nature of your family relationships. I would either straightforwardly address the issue, by talking directly to your younger sister and seeing if there's any way you can reconnect with your older sister without hurting her - or I would skirt the issue, either by ignoring the friend request entirely or by sending your older sister a facebook message explaining why you're not going to friend her back.
posted by shaun uh at 12:24 PM on July 13, 2009


either by ignoring the friend request

anon found older sister (OS), not the other way around. anon didn't say anything about OS sending a friend request, and OS may not even be aware that anon is on FB at this point.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 12:31 PM on July 13, 2009


I just dumped everything off of my facebook account.. it became too complicated to keep my friends from posting crap that my professional peers would wonder about. Trying to manipulate the groups you can create, what they can see and what they can't becomes a huge headache, and, eventually you'll slip up (hows that go "oh what a tangled web...blah blah blah)...

use e/mail
posted by HuronBob at 12:50 PM on July 13, 2009


No need to make your renewed relationship public. Just email her.
posted by kathrineg at 12:50 PM on July 13, 2009


I miss my older sister and my her children, but don't want to cause any trouble.

It's not like Facebook is the world's last means of communication. Use email. Or, god forbid, snail mail.

In addition, I'm worried that as more of our extended family and old friends get connected, they will inevitably start asking why we aren't "friends". I don't want to answer and also don't want to be dishonest.

I doubt this would happen, and if it did, you could certainly use a vague excuse. I've never been grilled about my friending choices. I hear that people do it, but what bad form! Make them feel bad for being nosy.
posted by Miko at 12:57 PM on July 13, 2009


Just say you are super cool and use Orkut instead (it's from Google).

Realistically, social networks have come and gone every 2-3 years. In a few years Facebook may be as dead as MySpace. I wouldn't worry about it until it happens.
posted by benzenedream at 1:21 PM on July 13, 2009


anon found older sister (OS), not the other way around. anon didn't say anything about OS sending a friend request, and OS may not even be aware that anon is on FB at this point.

Whoops, missed that. That makes it even easier - either find a private way to contact her (facebook message, email, phone) if you want to keep your YS out of the loop, or be up front with YS about your intentions towards OS. But friending on facebook is sort of the worst of both worlds - hurtful without being respectful & direct.
posted by shaun uh at 1:23 PM on July 13, 2009


Be real friends with the people you like, and tell them it's more significant than being Facebook "friends".
posted by amtho at 1:23 PM on July 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


What is the productive outcome of lying to your family about forgiving your sister?

Whatever bad crap went down, you are moving past it. You miss your sister and your nieces and nephews. There is no shame in that.

Choosing sides with one sister over the other is bad. Lying to an abused sister about your friendship with the abuser is probably worse. You don't owe anyone a full disclosure of every aspect of your life. However, you're deliberately trying to hide something from people with whom you want a close relationship. You don't have to specifically inform your family, but you also shouldn't hide it. Lying simply perpetuates a bad family dynamic.
posted by 26.2 at 1:42 PM on July 13, 2009


I too think you should just email or talk on the phone if you want to be in touch. I think it's unlikely that someone will ask why you're not friends on Facebook. You'd kind of have to be looking specifically for whether two people were friends even just to confirm that they're not. In the very rare times that I've wondered such a thing, I've never even thought about asking the people involved. None of my beeswax. And if someone does, you can just say "I don't know, we're just not. We keep in touch through other means."
posted by lampoil at 1:58 PM on July 13, 2009


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