Daughter's boyfriend has made edits to her social media
June 9, 2014 10:32 PM   Subscribe

Daughter's (21) boyfriend (of 7 months) has made edits to her social media accounts to block her (long ago) ex-boyfriend, without her permission or knowledge. What should I advise her? I did look for previous questions (snoop, email, etc) but couldn't find relevant questions.
posted by b33j to Human Relations (38 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
assuming she and the previous ex-boyfriend are still good friends and it's all upstanding (i.e. current boyfriend has nothing to worry about), then:

1.) i would tell her why she needs to change all her passwords, and not to leave anything logged in around current boyfriend,


2.) then i'd tell her why she probably needs a new boyfriend, while liberally inserting "of course, the decision is up to you, but…".

if you want to go the passive aggressive/not set off your daughter way, you could just say, "hey, did something happen between you and ex? i noticed he's not one of your friends on fb anymore.". which might work better if she puts the pieces together on her own.
posted by koroshiya at 10:36 PM on June 9, 2014 [7 favorites]

Unless your daughter has asked you for help with this or you think the boyfriend may harm your daughter physically, I wouldn't do anything. Your daughter is a grown woman. She can work this out.
posted by rancidchickn at 10:46 PM on June 9, 2014 [4 favorites]

I really don't think 21 is grown, but that's just my opinion. It's totally not intrusive to look out for your children when there are signs of potentially bad problems.

I would find some time to be alone with her and ask her if she's feeling safe and okay in their relationship.
posted by clockzero at 10:48 PM on June 9, 2014 [20 favorites]

It sounds like she directly asked you for help, right?

What is her opinion on the whole thing thus far?

I would talk with her about the warning signs for controlling abusive relationships - including friendships, dynamics of toxic employment situations, and romantic relationships.

Have you ever talked with her about this kind of thing before?
posted by jbenben at 10:53 PM on June 9, 2014 [20 favorites]

It is unhealthy behaviour, doing it without permission. But don't recommend she break up with him - be supportive and emphasize values like respect and communication, and let her decide if she should break up with him. You want her to trust you and talk to you long-term. Let her know you have her back.

One of my kids' partners did this and big fights, etc, but they have mostly resolved it - definitely not a healthy stage in their relationship! They share passwords and it's like a sign of mutual trust because they don't share all their passwords - you can have my instagram and facebook password, but not my second facebook account password at this level or our relationship. I think it's a cultural shift for teenagers and young adults now.

Definitely talk to her about whether this is a unique event or another red flag and discuss abusive relationships. Maybe get a book or just go over something simple like Scarleteen's guide.
posted by viggorlijah at 11:03 PM on June 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

Assuming she asked for your advice, I'd tell her to drop that guy. Sneaking into her accounts to block people is a level of manipulation and control that is troubling.

If she didn't ask for advice, you're in a trickier spot, but if she asked give her the benefit of your wise counsel.
posted by 26.2 at 11:12 PM on June 9, 2014 [13 favorites]

Yeah, you left out (a) how you know this and (b) what she thinks about it. Both extremely relevant to what advice would be appropriate and useful.
posted by celtalitha at 11:21 PM on June 9, 2014 [12 favorites]

Imagine you're a stranger reading this question. You have basically zero facts. You don't know anything about the dynamics of the daughter's relationship with her boyfriend, or about her relationship with her ex, past or present. You probably have some idea what the phrase "edits to her social media accounts" might refer to, but you don't actually know. And maybe most importantly, you know nothing whatsoever about the daughter's relationship with the parent asking you the question.

Now imagine you had to help this person. What would you do? Well, you'd ask questions. Maybe partly to inform yourself so you could advise her...but really, you would hope and expect that through the process of asking questions, she would come to some realizations on her own. Because this is a judgment-call question, which means the answer is entirely within the asker and the task is merely in carving away enough stone so the shape will become clear enough for her to recognize. That's what you'd seek to help her with: not to do "the right thing," but to find clarity about what's the right thing for her.

That is what you should do for your daughter. Good luck.
posted by cribcage at 11:22 PM on June 9, 2014 [2 favorites]

I think you could START a conversation with "I'm concerned because these aren't the actions of a loving partner. A loving partner understands that you had a life before them, and is glad that you were happy in the past. A loving partner trusts you to make good decisions and doesn't try to control who you are friends with, especially not by going behind your back." Like, instead of making it "he's a bad boyfriend," make it, "a good boyfriend does x and he did y" so she can make the leap on her own rather than feeling like her mom told her she has a bad boyfriend.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 11:25 PM on June 9, 2014 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Daughter has asked to discuss it with me. She found out and told me. We discuss (relationship) things in an adult fashion and she makes her own decision, even if I disagree. I only asked you guys because I've seen you come up with sensible answers to this before and I couldn't find them.

There are other issues in the relationship that she and I are aware of, but not in terms of jealousy. I'm not discussing them here.
posted by b33j at 11:26 PM on June 9, 2014 [5 favorites]

Response by poster: Oh and as for what she thinks, she feels that her privacy has been massively invaded.
posted by b33j at 11:31 PM on June 9, 2014 [15 favorites]

If she's asking you for help, if there are other issues, if she feels this is a step too far... she should end the relationship.

I understand you're not comfortable discussing the other issues here with us, but that information might help inform the advice you receive.
posted by RainyJay at 11:51 PM on June 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

She should change her password and in the future not give out her password to boyfriends.

If the issue in this case is that he went onto her computer to access her account that is permanently logged in, she needs to tell him that's not cool. And if she ever finds out that he did something like that ever again, DTMFA on account of creepdom.

I personally would break up with a guy before methodically logging out of every site I use regularly, but maybe I love the internet more than other people. Password protecting her PC (and her phone, if she doesn't already have that set up) wouldn't be a bad idea, though.
posted by Sara C. at 11:57 PM on June 9, 2014 [20 favorites]

For a relationship of 7 months, this would be dealbreaker territory for me. I feel like that's a pretty big violation. Privacy wouldn't even be my biggest concern, it's a very controlling, even possessive act and I would see it as a major red flag.

I think she should ask him his thought process (does he understand that what he did was wrong, express remorse, or does he get defensive, try to justify himself?), but she should do so with a healthy degree of skepticism.
posted by lwb at 12:02 AM on June 10, 2014 [33 favorites]

For me it's more than privacy..... it's , well, "privacy" just doesn't convey how boundary invading it is. At her age I'd have been annoyed but not had the precise vocabulary to articulate why it bothered me.... nor the maturity to see where people who are ok about doing this kind of stuff ALWAYS escalate to more controlling and borderline abusive behaviours. Sometimes to full on abusive behaviours.

At the probable age of the boyfriend, I bet he isn't conscious of "controlling" her.... but that's where it's going to end up. We can all see it. That's how young controlling types start out. Boundary testing/pushing to invading and.... lack of respect.

I guess I'd listen to her..... at her age it would be a rare human to have the maturity to dump him over this. All of us, with wisdom and age know she should... but I'm sure she believes he has other, wonderful qualities. Oh, I have soooooo been there.

You really just keep the doors open to listen and ask her how she thinks his behaviour will progress in the future based on her feedback to this. Then ask her where her line in the sand is. To not necessarily tell you where it is, but to work it out in her own head and draw it and not let it be crossed. And then to think about what she would tell her most precious and dearest friend/little sister, if she were facing a girl/boy friend who had done this. What would your daughter worry about for this friend and how would she advise them.

That's how I'd approach the dialogue.

This is a parent's worst nightmare..... a controlling partner for a beloved child. And it usually starts in small steps, often seemingly almost benign in the beginning. Hugs for you, you must be very worried.
posted by taff at 12:27 AM on June 10, 2014 [39 favorites]

Both your solving her problem and the boyfriend invading her social sites have the same root cause: she's not behind the steering wheel of her own life. The question is how did this happen (her upbringing most likely), how does this affect her life (is this incident symptomatic? Are there other accounts where she was not as much in control of her own destiny as she would like to be?) and how can she be helped?

If she asks for your help, you could maybe advise her to seek counselling, assertiveness training.
posted by hz37 at 12:30 AM on June 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

If the other issues relate to controlling or manipulative behaviour then I would strongly suggest you talk through that with her, perhaps with some information about the way control and manipulation escalate and constitute abuse.

If the other issues are unrelated and he's around her age then I still think that this is a big red flag but not necessarily a deal breaker. If he's also young it could be that although he's demonstrated hideously poor judgement on this issue it may be that he can learn from this mistake that this isn't an appropriate response and that in future he needs to talk through his concerns and allow her to make her own choices even if he doesn't like them.

Lastly (with much less priority) it might be worth talking to your daughter about her relationship with her ex. If it's all 100% platonic that's great, but I know at her age I was terrible at maintaining appropriate boundaries. If there are lingering feelings on either side then it would be worth discussing that maintaining the friendship is not kind to the ex (if he has feelings for her) or good for her current relationship (though it absolutely does NOT excuse her boyfriend's actions)
posted by *becca* at 1:01 AM on June 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thank you all for your insight.

My daughter is one of the most emotionally mature people I know, for all her lack of life experience. I think she is wise to seek counsel from an adult she respects, and when I found I doubted my ability to be fair to both parties in this situation, I asked you.

I've sent her this link, and we are now discussing options and scripts, among other things. She will see this response as well, no doubt. She already knew of my high opinion of her.

As my daughter is also a very private person, even though no-one here knows her personally, I will not be sharing her decision and the outcome.
posted by b33j at 1:40 AM on June 10, 2014 [31 favorites]

A wise and wonderful parent you are, b33j.

A second piece of advice from the internet.... get her her own account here. She doesn't have to tell you her username but here is another resource where thoughtful, respectful and supportive adults (old and young!) will support her and give her every possible alternate point of view. As you well know!

If only I'd had MetaFilter at the same age.... *sigh*.
posted by taff at 1:54 AM on June 10, 2014 [9 favorites]

I asked my target demographic at home (22, 20 yo women, 15 yo male) and they all agreed that it was obnoxious for this man to do this, but in their eyes, it's a conversation and not necessarily a deal breaker.

My kids said it sounds like this boyfriend was feeling insecure about this ex, had access to her open FB page (or knew her password), then went ahead and blocked the guy.

In their circles, this falls into the category of "kind of annoying" social media behavior, but not creepy. According to my two youngest, they and their peers absolutely post on each other's FB accounts when someone leaves their page open (usually something faux humiliating about the size of their morning poop), so having and using FB access isn't super hackery stuff.

Granted, going ahead and blocking someone isn't what they normally do, but it's not unheard of.

They suggest if all other relationship parts are ok, your daughter should talk to this guy, tell him he's not allowed to touch her accounts, and change her account passwords. Let that be the end of it.

They said the guy could be young and immature and just needs to be told not to do it, or he could be really weirdly insecure about this ex and not quite ready to be dating.
posted by kinetic at 3:17 AM on June 10, 2014 [2 favorites]

IMO, there is about a 40% chance that this is dumb, juvenile behavior, and 60% chance that this is the beginning of a pattern of abusive, controlling behavior.

I think in either case, DTMFA is probably warranted, but at the very least, watching his behavior much more closely in the future.
posted by empath at 3:45 AM on June 10, 2014 [4 favorites]

You write
Daughter has asked to discuss it with me. She found out and told me. We discuss (relationship) things in an adult fashion and she makes her own decision, even if I disagree.
And the original question is "What should I advise her?"

posted by colin_l at 4:40 AM on June 10, 2014 [3 favorites]

She should dump this creep. He lacks healthy boundaries and has violated her trust, and doesn't trust her.
posted by J. Wilson at 5:06 AM on June 10, 2014 [4 favorites]

This kind of jealous possessive behavior usually gets worse, and it could become physically dangerous. Has he done anything else like this? Is he isolating her from friends and family? Does he tell her he doesn't like her friends? Does he monopolize her time? If she answers yes to any of these questions she really needs to dump him.
posted by mareli at 5:19 AM on June 10, 2014 [4 favorites]

What the boyfriend is saying by his actions is "I want you to stop having any contact with this person". In the real world, this would be like seeing her talk to the ex in public, then stepping between them and saying "Stop talking to him now". Stepping between them via social media and not telling her... this adds a degree of underhandedness to an already problematic action.

The behaviour is controlling and disrespectful. It shows a degree of insecurity on his part, which might be due to a lack of maturity and an inability to discuss his feelings openly... those are things that can be overcome with time and work, and make the relationship stronger. Or he might be a self-centered asshole who thinks other people should do his bidding in all things... that's a severe personality fault, and there ain't no fix for that. Strangers on the internet aren't going to be able to tell which of those situations apply, so your daughter has to try to figure out if he's just immature and did this because his relationship toolbox only has a ban-hammer in it, or if he's actually broken and dangerous.

Either way, it's a big red flag and deserves long careful consideration on her part. It's not a minor bobble that should be forgotten or let slide; it's a sign of something deeper.
posted by Mary Ellen Carter at 6:01 AM on June 10, 2014 [5 favorites]

I'm not an expert, but I think the decision of whether to DTMFA or not belongs AFTER the conversation with the boyfriend. If he really was just feeling insecure and overstepped a boundary and is apologetic and tries to make up for it and changes his behaviors, then I think it's fine to maintain the relationship but be on the watch for other signs in the future and act at that time. If he is all defensive and insists that he was right to do it and that he has the right to do it and he would do it again, then yeah, DTMFA.
posted by CathyG at 6:07 AM on June 10, 2014 [4 favorites]

Confession time: When I was a younger person (teens and very early twenties), I had a snooping problem. Basically just looking through people's stuff (the internet barely existed, let alone "social media"), but never "acting" on what I found in any sort of public way. It was a odd compulsion, as I was otherwise a rather painfully ethical person. Certainly someone who was 110% committed to relationships, with no conscious wish to control or hurt anyone. At a certain point -- following on some embarrassments, I believe -- I just put it away, forever.

I've never really pinned down why I did this, but I suspect that my behavior was largely motivated by a desire to better "know" the person in question, as well has by fear/insecurity. I'm still humiliated by that phase, but I'm sharing it in an attempt to give this "creep" some level of humanity, I guess. He may still be able to adjust his course.

Social media sites add a weird wrinkle to modern relating; a person's pre-"us" history is just there, all the time. It's sort of like one or both parts of a couple keeping old photos of their respective exes on the bedside table, right next to the new ones of them together. My girlfriend is not super-stoked that -- should she page far enough back through my facebook albums -- she's going to find pictures of me and my ex being happy together. However, she's a grown up; she respects that I don't intend to "delete" my ex from my public personal history. In turn, I respect her desire that I keep my online contact with said ex at a friendly-but-distant level.

Without further background, it's impossible to know why your daughter's current boyfriend did this. Perhaps she was ignoring a previous agreement to keep her online engagement with her ex at a formal/impersonal level. Or, perhaps her ex was behaving inappropriately towards her, and current dude felt he was "protecting" her/their relationship. Maybe -- as our guts seem to tell us -- he's just a budding controlling asshole.

The only thing we do know is that his choice to access and make changes to her accounts was definitely inappropriate; grownups don't do that (current mores about sharing passwords aside). This is behavior that he needs to abandon completely, if he ever wants to have a healthy adult relationship. With your daughter, or with the next woman he dates after she dumps him.
posted by credible hulk at 6:19 AM on June 10, 2014 [3 favorites]

Your daughter's boyfriend is almost certainly immature -- so this could easily have been some sort of mistake that doesn't suggest controlling/abuse, the way credible hulk describes.

The best way to find this out is to speak to the boyfriend -- if he responds with defensiveness or aggressiveness or anything but an apology and some acknowledgement that this was wrong (if not immediately, by the very next day), it's a bad sign. If he is sorry and explains himself without trying to excuse himself, then it's probably just a mistake. If he isn't, I'd be very concerned that this is the first step into trying to control her. (Of course, if it IS the first step, the fact that she fought back might mean he'll just move on to someone else.)
posted by jeather at 6:44 AM on June 10, 2014

I like to use a Socratic Method to help people arrive a the conclusion that works for them.

1. How does it make you feel that he violated your privacy like this?

Is a good place to start. Once she starts talking, you can springboard from what she says.

2. Do you think he has a right to do this because you're dating?

Yes, they're leading questions, but there's nothing wrong with that. If she ends up defending him in the "well this was a lapse, but other than that..."

3. What do you think he would say if you blocked his friends?

4. What are your deal-breakers in relationships?

5. What does it say about his character?

6. What does he say about it? Do you think this might manifest into something larger?

Provoke thought, don't expect that a decision will be made all at once.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:02 AM on June 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

Your daughter's boyfriend is almost certainly immature -- so this could easily have been some sort of mistake that doesn't suggest controlling/abuse, the way credible hulk describes.

Yeah, he's done a bad thing but is easily young enough to learn a lesson. When I was 21, I would snoop whenever I got the chance, just because... why not? Now I wouldn't dream of it. It can take a while for some of this stuff to sink in.
posted by cincinnatus c at 7:04 AM on June 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

The situation leads me to a couple of questions:

1. Has the boyfriend been confronted about this? If so, how did he react? If his reaction was anything other than "this has been an important learning experience for me, I was an idiot, I really regret what I did, and I will never do anything like it again," DTMFA.

2. The above point notwithstanding, under what conditions could the daughter trust the boyfriend in the future? Is there always going to be doubt in the back of her mind? If that well has been poisoned, it's time to move on. That might reinforce the learning experience for the boyfriend. Actions have consequences.
posted by adamrice at 8:35 AM on June 10, 2014 [2 favorites]

nthing that this is probably a conversation, not a dealbreaker, if it's an isolate incident.

When I was about that age, I went through my then-boyfriend's cell phone and deleted his ex-girlfriends numbers. I honestly couldn't even give you a good explanation why I did it, I had no fear of him cheating on me, but I confessed and apologized and realized what I did was absolutely not okay.

In my opinion, it's a possibility this isn't part of a larger context of isolating and controlling behavior, but he needs to understand that what he did was wrong no matter what his feelings are about her talking to her ex, that he cannot and has no right to control how she communicates with other people, and that he's actually truly sorry for what he did.
posted by inertia at 8:55 AM on June 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

Your daughter obviously has a good head on her shoulders and I can understand why she is concerned. It's never a bad idea to seek an objective perspective when you are feeling like your personal boundaries have been crossed.

Those suggesting you just tell your daughter to dump her boyfriend don't, I think, understand the trust and mutual respect the two of you have for each other. That bond comes from you accepting that your daughter is a mature young woman capable of making her own decisions, and her trusting that you will offer her counsel and feedback rather than just telling her what she should do. It's wonderful you have that kind of relationship. You sound like a fantastic parent! :)

That said, I think your daughter is absolutely right to feel that these actions from her current boyfriend are way out of line. He not only violated her trust, he went about it in a sneaky, underhanded way.

If her boyfriend had problems with her ex, he could have handled this in any number of ways without completely taking her agency away from her as he has done.

If the messages themselves were public on the social media platform, and her boyfriend read them and was upset, that would be no big deal. He's only human, and, especially if he has had prior relationships where his partner was unfaithful, he might be overly sensitive to a perceived intimacy with other men. He could have spoken to your daughter openly about his concerns and where they were coming from and they could work through that.

If the messages were private and your daughter's boyfriend had to log into her social media account to read them, that would be worse, of course. She might be justifiably angry that he was snooping behind her back. His concern might seem more like an accusation than a discussion. I think he could still have explained what was bothering him, though, and why, and I imagine they could get past the snooping and work it all out.

He could even have asked her, while they were talking it all out, if she would consider taking things down or editing them herself. That would cross a line for me, personally. Insisting I edit myself would be a red flag that his affection comes with conditions; I'd worry he would be nit picky and pedantic over perceived slights and hold onto resentment when things didn't go his way. Once we'd had the discussion about the Ex, I'd feel, if I were your daughter, like we ought to be able to just move on from there.

In either case, at least there would have been a discussion.

What actually happened here, though, is pretty much the worst case scenario. Her boyfriend didn't discuss this with her. He didn't argue with her. He didn't even (falsely) accuse her of anything. Any of those would be preferable to what he actually did.

He just erased her. Like what she wanted and felt didn't matter at all.

Yep, if I were your daughter? I would be supremely pissed.
posted by misha at 9:53 AM on June 10, 2014 [2 favorites]

This type of behaviour is, to me, a huge HUGE red flag and it very much feels like "just the beginning". For me, this is a red flag she should not ignore. This is a relationship ender because it is has so many implications.
He thinks he can control to has access to her,
he thinks he can control who she has access to,
he thinks her privacy is irrelevant,
he thinks he should be able to make decisions about her life without consulting her,
he thinks that he knows better than she does what she wants....

If she confronts him about it he'll probably say she's overreacting or the only reason she is so upset by it is because she clearly wants to get back with her ex, etc. He may go the other way and apologize profusely and say he'll never do it again. Frankly, it wouldn't matter what he said. I'd never be able to trust him again. Next time he may just be more subversive and conceal it better.

This is all very bad. She should end it with him. Tell him exactly why you are dumping him (the huge invasion of privacy and disrespect) or not, that is up to her, but she needs to walk.

A life lesson I wish I had learned earlier is that I am the only one that is able to ensure I am being respected. No one else can stick up for me as well as I can stick up for myself. It isn't rude or bitchy or mean to require that everyone treat you with respect. It is okay to call someone out when they AREN'T treating you with respect. You are your own best defense and advocate. The only way people are able to treat you disrespectfully is to allow them to.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 10:28 AM on June 10, 2014 [6 favorites]

I just want to add that like credible hulk and cincinnatus c, I also had a snooping problem when I was this age, and it didn't go away until my mid twenties. Now that I am older the idea of violating someone's trust in this way makes me feel ill, but at the time it just seemed like harmless curiosity.

This doesn't mean I think your daughter should go easy on her boyfriend. He needs to learn how damaging this type of behaviour is. He needs to see firsthand how it makes other people feel. Hopefully he is an empathetic person, and being confronted about this will be the experience that helps him truly understand why it is not an acceptable thing to do.

If he doesn't seem to get it, or especially if anything similar ever happens again, well then I think you know what I'm going to say.
posted by insoluble uncertainty at 3:48 PM on June 10, 2014

She feels that her privacy has been massively invaded.
It has. But this violates more than privacy. In an earlier era, would he have forged a letter to old beau? This outrage is equivalent. She can dump him now or regret not doing so later.
posted by LonnieK at 5:23 PM on June 10, 2014 [2 favorites]

This outrage is equivalent. She can dump him now or regret not doing so later.

You can basically say this about 90% of relationships that 21 year olds are in for a multitude of reasons. She is probably going to dump this guy eventually no matter what because, well, they are immature. The question is really whether or not this is MUST RUN NOW material or just something that bears watching, and I think it's mostly the latter. If they aren't 'serious' and they're still enjoying their time together for the most part, there's no need to panic.
posted by empath at 7:20 PM on June 10, 2014

I think PuppetMcSockerson has nailed it, but even if this isn't a sign of worse things to come, even if this is just the action of an immature snoop, if your daughter is an emotionally mature young adult I'm not sure she needs to be putting up with this crap. Does she really want to have to train this guy to treat people with respect? Even if she's willing to take that on, what's to say that his takeaway lesson won't be "next time be sneakier" or "if I say I'm sorry I'll get away with it" rather than "don't do this shit"?

There are a lot of foolish things that people do, but choosing an action that robs your partner of her/his agency and shows them a total lack of respect crosses a line I would not be interested in forgiving. It doesn't mean he's necessarily a bad person, but he can do his growing up on his own and not at her expense.

I wouldn't think of it as "running" so much as choosing to leave behind a disrespectful, immature person.
posted by DingoMutt at 11:03 AM on June 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

« Older My Grits Runneth Over   |   How to best cope without air conditioning? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.