They're nice in person, but a fanatic online. What do I do?
October 8, 2012 4:44 PM   Subscribe

I've been an introvert for a long time (still am, but I'm faking it), so I'm not used this whole "group of friends" thing, and I don't know how to deal with one of my new acquaintance's dual personality.

I met this person online through -- we are members of two meetup groups -- and in person they're fairly nice, outgoing and friendly. We get along, our dogs get along (one of our meetups is a pet group) and all is good. We exchanged emails and Facebook information and that's when the trouble started. It appears that online this person is a hard-core political advocate (Republican, not that it matters, I'm middle of the road) and very religious (I'm Agnostic). Now I'm being inundated with emails and Facebook posts that are very strongly political and religious.

I've already sent this person an email explaining that I'm not a Christian, nor am I really interested in politics but the emails and posts keep on coming. I've taken this person off of my news-feed on Facebook, but now I'm getting direct wall-to-wall posts. I delete most of the emails without opening them, but I really wish they'd stop sending them.

In person, we seem to get along well, I don't want to stir the waters there, especially since we belong to the same groups and that could get awkward. I have a feeling that this person has tender feelings and if I mention that I'd rather not receive their tidings, things could get explosive quickly. Other than send another email or seriously confront them face to face, what do I do?
posted by patheral to Human Relations (25 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
In your email, did you make a direct request for this person to stop inundating you with religio-political Facebook/email spam? Some people don't take hints well and only get the message from things stated bluntly. What was this person's response to your email, if any?
posted by UniversityNomad at 4:48 PM on October 8, 2012 [3 favorites]

Also, if you use Gmail, there are various options that mean that you never have to see the emails. You could have Gmail delete it as soon as it arrives, or put it in a folder as soon as it arrives, so you don't see it at all. Not that that makes the situation any less irritating, but it might be a good compromise if you don't want to address the situation directly with the person, but also don't want to be forced to see the messages.
posted by UniversityNomad at 4:50 PM on October 8, 2012

De-friend them on Facebook entirely. They're being weird, you have nothing to apologize or fear. Blow this person off completely and find a different friend - trust me, it's not going to be worth your time trying to get inside the head of someone who ignores your polite request not to spam your Facebook.
posted by facetious at 4:55 PM on October 8, 2012 [8 favorites]

I'm not sure what you first wrote, but a(nother) short and succinct email could suffice to stop these actions.

"Dear x,

I enjoy hanging out with you, but it seems we have distinctly different points of view in a few areas, including political orientation and religious beliefs. I understand that you are passionate about your beliefs, but I am not looking to discuss these topics/I do not like to discuss these topics.

I'll see you at the next dog walk/group outing!
- patheral"

If that doesn't work, de-friend this person on Facebook and filter the emails.
posted by filthy light thief at 5:02 PM on October 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

One more thing: for what it's worth, I'm an extrovert generally considered passably socially ept. And in my opinion, you aren't going to alienate the rest of the two groups if you de-friend on Facebook, ignore emails, etc. I'm sure that if you're having this experience, various others in the two groups are too, and are finding it just as irritating. If this person makes a scene about defriending/ignoring emails/etc. in front of one or both groups, they're going to be the one who looks ridiculous, not you. That's my two cents, anyway.
posted by UniversityNomad at 5:03 PM on October 8, 2012 [4 favorites]

Yeah, just ignore the messages and posts and don't add to the drama. Filter them on gmail, block them from your feed (or unfriend if necessary), and go on with your life! :)
posted by 3491again at 5:20 PM on October 8, 2012

The email I sent basically said that I'm not Christian or political, and that they were wasting their time sending these emails to me. They responded that requests for prayers were not a waste of time (the email I "replied" to).
posted by patheral at 5:21 PM on October 8, 2012

"Dude, enough with the political/religious spam already! I said I wasn't interested, so take me off your list FFS."

Then if he doesn't, just unfriend/block him.
posted by headnsouth at 5:29 PM on October 8, 2012

If I were you, I'd send an email with a direct request for them to stop sending those emails to you. Your initial email really should have done the trick, but it's conceivable that they misunderstood (or "misunderstood") because you couched it in terms of their comfort (that they were wasting their time) rather than couching it in terms of your strong preference. I personally would send another more blunt email back, in response. Something to the tune of:

"Dear AnnoyingFriend, It looks like I didn't express myself with enough clarity in my last email, so I'm going to try again. I do not enjoy religious or political communications with friends, under any circumstances. I must insist that you stop sending me such communications by any medium (email, Facebook, etc.). I respect that these things are important to you personally, but this cannot be something that our friendship includes. I enjoy meeting up with you in X and Y groups, and I'm looking forward to furthering our friendship, but in order for us to do so, I need you to desist from sending me any religious or political messages. Thank you, Patheral."

This is clear and to the point. It might come across as slightly harsh, but you've already tried less direct methods and they haven't worked. I think the clarity will be worth it, as you can de-friend them on Facebook and block their emails in good conscience afterwards. I strongly prefer direct communication, however, so YMMV of course.
posted by UniversityNomad at 5:32 PM on October 8, 2012 [10 favorites]

Friend, you can pray for me all you like, but you don't need to tell me about it. Take me off your lists, please.

See you at dogmeetup.
posted by rtha at 6:24 PM on October 8, 2012 [4 favorites]

My guess is that this person is indeed nice, but has also been taught that their duty is to convert nonbelievers they know. It's a lot easier to do this online than in person, so that's what they're doing and probably why they are ignoring your first request. Because (they tell themselves) they don't want you to go to hell.

If that's the case, then you can choose to remain their friend but dodge the religious stuff (which means blocking them and Not Engaging online) or step away entirely. They may or may not escalate to face to face stuff, depending on how committed they are to their perceived mission to witness to you. They may take your mildness and politeness as a sign you might be a possible convert.

Agnostics get this a lot, because our choice of the "well maybe, who knows?" label is taken by some as a hint that we can be persuaded, in a way that "Fuck religion" does not.
posted by emjaybee at 7:27 PM on October 8, 2012

It may be different/more than their duty to convert nonbelievers, but/and their belief that they have the chance to save you. In years past, I was part of a Christian study group, and we got to discussing if it was worth turning 10 people off of Christ to save 1 person. Some thought it was, and your casual friend might be of this mindset. This mindset might also carry over to their political life.

Try to be more forceful (like UniversityNomad's suggestion) or simply more direct (as rtha put it). If that fails, you now know you have been completely clear that you no longer wish to get their messages about religion and politics, and you can de-friend them and filter their emails accordingly.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:57 PM on October 8, 2012

You can't be best friends with everybody. Go to one of their posts and click the icon in the upper right corner. Mark them as "important only" in Facebook and you won't see any of this crap and you won't have to defriend them. You can also turn them off completely.
posted by rhizome at 9:15 PM on October 8, 2012

Since you get along swimmingly in public, why not just say "Hey, by the way, no offense, but as much as I like you, I don't like getting inundated with posts to my wall. Is there an easy way for you to stop sending me those, or should I just de-friend you -- on Facebook, but not in real life, of course!"
posted by davejay at 10:07 PM on October 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

Man, I hate confrontations of any kind. This person's emails are so strong that I feel any sort of "please stop sending them" are going to result in a "if you're not with us, you're against us" kind of thing. It makes me cringe. This person has their own meetup for a game night. I joined briefly but quickly realized that I couldn't participate because of scheduling conflicts. I flat out told them I couldn't participate, and why, and left the meetup group. They started sending me invitations via Facebook. It's just weird. I suppose that's one of the reasons why I'm so timid about attempting to get them to stop emailing me their political & religious things. I think they have a problem hearing "no".
posted by patheral at 6:24 AM on October 9, 2012

They started sending me invitations via Facebook.

With facebook, you can just send out invitations automatically to every one of your friends or everyone in a subgroup. They're not sending you invites to be confrontational... it's more likely just an automatic thing or something along the lines of, "I'll keep patheral in the loop in case her schedule changes."
posted by deanc at 7:39 AM on October 9, 2012 [2 favorites]

I flat out told them I couldn't participate, and why, and left the meetup group. They started sending me invitations via Facebook.

Not only are facebook invitations pretty automatic and non-pushy, but you told them you couldn't participate, not that you didn't want to. That's not flat-out anything, that's saying "but for this unfortunate scheduling conflict which I so wish wasn't the case, I would totally be there, with bells on!"

Man, I hate confrontations of any kind.

Clear communication ≠ confrontation. Either it's worth the cringe to make it stop, or it isn't.
posted by headnsouth at 7:57 AM on October 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

I have a lot of sympathy for your position, because a long time ago I used to I act like you. I was somehow strongly socialized to avoid confrontation, to avoid directly telling someone "no", and to try not to make anyone else feel awkward or uncomfortable or upset (regardless of how much of those emotions it would cause me). Unfortunately, this led to a lot of confusion on the part of others, who tended to take my very indirect and passive-aggressive rejections in the most optimistic light, and it ended up prolonging the agony for everyone rather than alleviating it.

I would say that your best move, in this situation and in various others like it, is to state your own needs and preferences clearly and unapologetically. Some people aren't good at hearing "no" unless it is phrased directly, so you're actually doing them a favor. Instead of couching your preferences and consequent expectations as something easier or better for them, state them clearly and baldly ("I do not enjoy communications with friends about political and religious issues, and I must insist that you stop."). Instead of saying that you're really sorry but you can't come to X because of Y, simply say that X isn't going to work for you (even if Y is in fact the true reason you can't go). I think it's Dear Prudence (?) who advises a simple: "That won't be possible." It doesn't give excuses that someone can argue with, it's unambiguous, and it's unapologetic so you're not putting yourself in the position where you've supposedly done something wrong that you have to atone for.
posted by UniversityNomad at 11:11 AM on October 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

You seem to be treating this like "Oh, so-and-so is doing some totally normal thing, and it only makes me uncomfortable because I'm a weirdo introvert. So any conflict here will be all my fault."

Well, THAT'S NOT TRUE AT ALL. This guy is completely out of line, acting in a way that's excessive even among extroverts. Spamming random acquaintances is not okay. Ignoring clearly stated boundaries is not okay. There is no special religious exemption to these rules. There is no special exemption for people with "tender feelings."

(And oh man do there need to be scare quotes around those words. Most people with actual tender feelings learn early on to protect those feelings, by being accommodating and understanding and learning to take a hint and... well, by not being pushy assholes who won't take no for an answer. A pushy aggressive guy with "tender feelings," nine times out of ten, is really a bully making an implicit threat: "You have to do what I want, or I will become angry, cruel, and possibly even violent, while still claiming the whole time that it's all your fault.")

The story here is not "introvert can't cope with normal social situation." It's "nice normal person gets victimized by manipulative asshole." You are not the source of the problem.
posted by nebulawindphone at 11:12 AM on October 9, 2012 [6 favorites]

This person's emails are so strong that I feel any sort of "please stop sending them" are going to result in a "if you're not with us, you're against us" kind of thing. It makes me cringe.

So tell me again why you're working so hard to keep your friendship with this person alive? I think you see where I'm going with this.
posted by davejay at 11:04 PM on October 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

davejay, I'm not really trying to keep a friendship alive. This is more of an acquaintance. I just don't want to rock the boat because we belong to the same meetup groups and I think it would be awkward if I confront them about their emails and facebook posts. Like I said, I'm new to this whole group dynamic and I've heard about simple things escalating quickly out of control. I suppose I could quit the groups if this happens, but from what I understand, Albuquerque is a little big town, once you meet people, you run into them all the time. Honestly, I'm just trying to avoid conflict here.
posted by patheral at 6:38 AM on October 10, 2012

Patheral, I'd love to hear how it works out for you, if you want to update the thread.
posted by UniversityNomad at 8:28 AM on October 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

The problem seems to have resolved itself. They simply stopped sending me things on their own without me saying anything *shrug*. Weird. Maybe it was my lack of response; I dunno. Anyway, if they start up again, I'll definitely take y'alls advice and be clear, polite, and direct in my communications.
posted by patheral at 2:27 PM on October 19, 2012 [2 favorites]

Um... Now the situation has really resolved itself via this facebook conversation. Just in case anyone is still curious. She defriended me because I refused to debate with her.
posted by patheral at 12:22 PM on November 9, 2012

Your friend in green is hilarious. (You do seem a little bit placate-y in that exchange, FWIW. Facebook is much more a place where "eh, whatevs" or nothing at all is much more effective than "Sorry, I'm not going to get into a debate on my page. I'm just going to disagree without debating. You're more than welcome to your opinion....") If you don't want to get into a debate, just don't.
posted by headnsouth at 1:17 PM on November 9, 2012

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