How to be polite yet firm about not being informed via social media?
August 5, 2014 10:49 PM   Subscribe

Family members relay FB status updates/news when I'm no longer on FB--it's good to be in the loop sometimes, but I dislike the delivery method. How can I reverse these types of communication patterns without giving the impression that I don't care?


I used to use Facebook and have quit successfully for two years now. I have no desire to get back on it, and I've done a pretty ok job keeping up with people who matter to me either through personal/face-to-face contact or email/letters/skype.

The problem is that my family members are mostly using FB. And since a lot of them have Apple devices, they also send me Messages. Some of the news they send is very important (regarding family emergencies, accidents, etc.) and it's mostly stuff they get from status updates from other relatives and friends we have in common. Other times its information that reminds me why I quit social media in the first place.

The worst thing is when these things pop up on my phone or computer while I'm trying to work and I find it difficult to regain my composure and concentration. I've already disabled push notifications and turned off the content previews, and I've also told my family members in clear and unambiguous ways that I don't want to receive news via SMS (the justification is always: 'we thought you should know'). Am I being unreasonable? What further steps can I take to further distance myself from social media without being asocial?

(If it helps, I'm abroad and geographically distant from my family members. I do call them once a week and feel like it's the best I can do while salvaging my sanity)

Thanks for any tips.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (20 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Set up a FB account again, populate it with minimal info, friend all your relatives and no one else, and then never check it. They won't need to share status updates with you because they'll think you know, and you don't have to know.
posted by Athanassiel at 10:59 PM on August 5, 2014 [5 favorites]

I'm a bit confused... is your problem that your family is sending you too much info via text messages now, or that you're just simply not a fan of getting gossipy news via text messages?

If so, the answer is to just stop answering their text messages, or slow down your responses. Make up a gentle white lie about having a new cell plan where SMS is limited, and tell them you'd rather get calls or emails instead. Or, just answer back slowly (or not at all) and people will lose interest in sending you messages and trying to get a response or a rise out of you.

If your question is how to get your family to stop being gossipy, the only answer is to either let it go and try to ignore it, or be direct. When they send a bit of gossip, tell them that you're not interested and that you don't want to hear that kind of info.
posted by Old Man McKay at 11:28 PM on August 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

It sounds like your family is literally reaching you through Facebook even though you're not checking it any more? If you go under Settings, at the bottom of the Security menu, click "Deactivate My Account". Everything will be archived if you ever want to go back. If you are absolutely done with Facebook, you can contact them and have the account deleted.

If they're just using SMSing you all the time - try choosing a family member as a gatekeeper and asking everyone else to go through them. At least that will cut back on the number of people sending you the same photo of the dog's obedience school graduation ceremony.
posted by gingerest at 11:54 PM on August 5, 2014 [2 favorites]

This is a human problem, not a technical one. Tell family - when I'm at work I cannot be doing non worm things except for major emergencies. So while I'm happy to hear about how Melissa is pregnant and Brandon scored a goal in hockey, as well as how Allison wears short skirts at age 14... But can we save them for my weekly Skype call?

To be honest, I don't know if you're really going to be able to stop this. I suspect you're trying to avoid some drama? If so, maybe express to the family member directly that you don't want to hear it... 'I know you think Bob's new wife is a bitch, and I'm uncomfortable with the Gossiping about her. Can we change the subject?'
posted by k8t at 12:12 AM on August 6, 2014 [2 favorites]

Have you dug into your phone settings to disable sms notifications as much as possible, ideally all? You'll still get the messages but should not be disturbed by them.

Also, why do they disturb you so much? You don't need to read them or respond to them. And people requiring a response will stop sending them if you ignore them for long enough. I can have unread sms for hrs at a time because my phone is on silent and I have to actively check my messages. My family and friends know not to expect a timely response on sms...
posted by koahiatamadl at 12:25 AM on August 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

My sister did the same and eventually most people did grasp the change and start reaching her in different ways, it took time though. Well done for sacking it, I don't blame you at all.
posted by tanktop at 12:34 AM on August 6, 2014

SMS is not social media. And stop making the fault for your distress everyone else's. Remove whatever app is making things pop up on your computer, and turn your phone to silent or mute text messages or just stop picking up your phone while working.
posted by DarlingBri at 2:53 AM on August 6, 2014 [45 favorites]

I really don't understand your issue fully. You don't want to get this information via social media. So you closed your main social media conduit. Then people send you this information personally through a text...and you don't want it there? How exactly do you want to get the information? What's the best way for you?

Honestly, unless it's the death of someone very close...I'm not expecting a call. I'm expecting a FB message or a text. And I think that's the way of the world generally now. At least the internet linked world.

And you live far away. You're not going to get a call, especially if you live several time zones away in another country.
posted by inturnaround at 4:41 AM on August 6, 2014 [2 favorites]

If your hope is to not get any messages of the lives of your loved ones, then expect to get push-back when you assert that. I don't think a blanket statement like that is going to fly and I also don't think it's fair. They're going to be hurt that you don't care about them and their lives.

I dig that you may be fed up with your family. It comes across loud and clear. The best you can do is tell them what kind of information you'd like to hear. For example, ask them not to relay gossip. That's reasonable.
posted by inturnaround at 4:46 AM on August 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

You could set up an email account just for their texts, and then get an app that will relay texts directly to that email, and then only check the email once a day.

If it's that much of a problem to be distracted by incoming messages on your phone/computer, you may want to consider getting totally separate devices for work and personal use. It's difficult to achieve the level of "off grid" you want when you're using the same computer or accounts to do work and personal stuff.
posted by nakedmolerats at 5:10 AM on August 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

If you make yourself difficult to contact, people won't contact you. If you're okay with that, then ask people not to text you.

One of my sisters is not on FB, and she gets mad at the rest of us when we talk about stuff on FB and don't include her. I am not going to go through a separate step to email her all the stuff we say on FB because she doesn't want to join. She is welcome to include herself, and it's her choice that she does not. The other main avenue of communication for us is group texts and if she opted out of those, she would miss pretty much everything because no one has time to hold her hand and tell her what's going on in the medium she prefers.
posted by crankylex at 6:03 AM on August 6, 2014 [7 favorites]

You're not going to get everyone else to change their method of group communication for you. If you insist on getting all your information via Skype and no one else uses Skype for that, you just aren't going to get information.

I'm not sure how the messages are popping up and interrupting you while you are working, but the solution is to figure out a way to stop it on your phone or computer, perhaps by having a work/personal login on the computer and turning off sms notifications during work hours on the phone.
posted by jeather at 6:51 AM on August 6, 2014

I think you're being unreasonable. SMS is just how people communicate these days. What would you prefer, addressed correspondence?

You can turn off the vibration on your phone or log out of the SMS service on your computer and then just read the notes at the end of the day.

We have 1 friend in our group who is anti-FB. We used to text him, he was intermittent in his reply. So... we kind of just got the hint. Thankfully he married and his wife is on FB so we just invite her and assume she passes it along.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 7:03 AM on August 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

And since a lot of them have Apple devices, they also send me Messages.

So are you saying you're getting iMessages from Apple Devices on your Apple computer? If so, there are settings to disable this. If so, open Messages on your computer and disable your iCloud account under preferences, then accounts.

You can also select just your phone number under "Send and Receive at" on your settings on your iPhone.

If you're not on an i-device, there's gotta be some app settings to disable these things. Plus I agree that you can just not respond to the messages until you have time. If you get that distracted, then select the message tone as silent so they don't buzz or ring.
posted by Crystalinne at 7:15 AM on August 6, 2014

Building on what Athanassiel said at the top of the thread - Gmail sends all social media communication to a "social" folder. Notifications from facebook include "So-and-so just updated her status/whatever", so you can quickly browse the list and decide which to open. (I set up my facebook account years ago only because my kids use/used it and I've been invisible almost from the beginning.) I'm assuming you could set up something similar with most email clients.

As others have mentioned, you can't make people stop sending you things they think you should know, but you have some control re how/when to receive the info. If you reach out to them via personal messages and phone calls, they will know you care, regardless of whether or not you respond to the messages sent to the masses.

Frankly, I don't see choosing not to communicate via facebook as anti-social. It's a business with a less-than-stellar track record regarding how it treats users, for crying out loud. It's not like you're opting out of 911 and then complaining about what a pain in the butt it is to reach the fire department when your house is burning down around you.
posted by she's not there at 7:52 AM on August 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

I don't think you can solve this problem unless you can tell your family how you would prefer them to communicate important news to you instead. If text messages are not okay with you, decide how you want your family to convey important information to you and tell them directly to contact you via email/telephone/carrier pigeon/whatever.

If you have an iPhone, try using Do Not Disturb mode.
posted by inertia at 11:59 AM on August 6, 2014

Hello anonymous! I completely understand your frustration. The only thing I loathe more than text messages would be Facebook. However I live in a different province from my close friends and family, as well as a different country from my highschool friends and extended family.

I am not clear from your question whether you wish to be contacted less overall, whether you are looking for a way to avoid being annoyed by the constant barrage of communication, or whether you want suggestions to make people exclusively contact you through preferred forms of communication. Posters here have offered great advice on the first two possibilities, and I would like to share with you my experience with the latter question - how to get people to stop telling you important things on Facebook / through texts. Unfortunately, the short answer is you cannot. I would like to suggest in my post that based on my experience with this very issue, if you stop to think about it, you may not want to proceed with your plan after all.

I learned that it is very hard to keep in regular touch with people who are geographically spread out from you if you are not on Facebook and do not like texts. While phonecalls, face-to-face meet ups and skype are preferable to me, unfortunately this is difficult for most. Phonecalls work for my mom since she is a senior and doesn't understand how to use the computer or text messages but that is about it.

The problems your family sees: phonecalls can be expensive (especially if the caller only has a cell) and require a huge chunk of time. Schedules have to synch up. Callers feel it is rude to contact you with important news and then hang up after a one minute chat. In the midst of an emergency no one has time to get on the phone and talk (especially if they are in a hospital, in transit, or at a police station) - in fact they may not be allowed to. The caller might be emotionally exhausted by the news and not have the energy to talk or desire to be questioned. Skype and Face-to-face are similar with the added problems of your friend / family member having to look presentable. And all these modes of contact means the person has to make a special initiative to spend one and one time with you to the exclusion of getting necessary stuff done such as notifying other key parties.

The problems you and I see: The unwanted forms of communication are very impersonal. If it was so important, someone would contact you in a more certain manner. Because it is so quick and easy a lot of inanity slips through the cracks as important, and drama develops when everyone is participating in the heat of the moment. On Facebook it is sometimes hard to avoid unwanted and excessive attention from others. The volume of information conveyed is exhausting to scroll through and it is overwhelming to respond to every piece of data. It sucks to have your responses archived for all eternity somewhere (if you are worried about such things) or on a public site for all to see. Also, it is easy to miss things in the sea of information.

What will probably happen if you or I successfully nix the Facebook and text notifications: you will only hear some news in the once a week phonecalls. Many of the emergencies and happy events will not be relayed to you at all since they would have already blown over (so no need to distress you, or for the caller to talk on and on about an event that they have already discussed to death). This is how one slowly goes out of the loop. You will also miss out on the chance of being there in the moment to offer immediate support, which is one way emotional bonds get created and strengthen. Some people will think you are rude and unyielding, too demanding of their limited time, or are only thinking of your feelings and not theirs. That will create animosity, only you will not realize it until it has festered a while.

What worked in my case: I realized I was being selfish and the only one losing out was me. I was expecting people to make the effort to contact me in an inconvenient way for them but did not return the favor by understanding their communication styles. The result was I heard from friends and extended family less often and was out of the loop regarding major developments. Of course I would hear news a few days or weeks later (since I wouldn't check Facebook) but it makes me come off as uncaring if it takes me 10 days to acknowledge something that everyone else did the day it happened. In a few cases I stopped hearing from former close friends completely and as our lives took different paths we became like strangers. What worked for me was starting to use their communication methods but at a more relaxed pace. I got back on Facebook but became very selective with what I engaged with (for about 4 years I only came on once or twice a year). I ignored the news feeds of people who posted distressing things. I blocked or deleted people who annoyed me and since most people forgot about me due to my long social media absence no one seemed to notice being removed. Facebook is a necessary evil these days. Keep in mind, just because the news is plastered on Facebook or mass texted to you doesn't mean you must respond in a like fashion. If you are more comfortable you can wait to respond, send a private e-mail, send a card etc. You also don't have to respond if you don't want to.

I am not sure if this has been helpful to you, but these realizations were useful to me and I am beginning to enjoy the level of connection I have been able to build with people simply by making myself more available to read their postings on Facebook (and responding when appropriate). I do not post personal things or photos on it and limit my interactions, but I am aware of things as they happen and can respond right away if there is a crisis.
posted by partly squamous and partly rugose at 5:45 PM on August 6, 2014 [4 favorites]

You make it sound like having a Facebook account is a bad thing. Maybe it might help to get over that mind set.

I liken calling "Facebook is bad" to saying "guns kill people". In my opinion, guns dont' kill people, stupid people with guns do. The same way, Facebook can be a huge time sink, you can annoy the crap out of everyone else constantly sending Candy Crush invites, you can be annoyed no end constantly receiving candy crush invites etc etc. But as with anything else, when used correctly and in moderation, Facebook can be a perfect platform for keeping in touch with family.

To clarify, I too "'m abroad and geographically distant from my family members". I love being able to keep in touch with everyone through Facebook. I love being up to date on all family matters. And I love I can do it at my leisure, when I feel like it.

"The worst thing is when these things pop up on my phone or computer while I'm trying to work and I find it difficult to regain my composure and concentration. I've already disabled push notifications and turned off the content previews"

First question, out of curiosity, how are these things popping up on your phone or computer when you are at work? Cant you just disable the application that's causing the pop up? You ruled out FB, so perhaps you are referring to Gmail? Can't you set up filters so new messages in your Gmail inbox from relatives are automatically archived or something?

And if you have disabled push notifications and turned off content previews, what exactly is left to distract you?

Frankly, I dont' think your problem is with the tools themselves. I think it's more of a personal conflict.. You want to stay away from your relatives but at the same time you feel guilty when you do, so you want to find a mid point somewhere.
posted by harisund at 7:02 PM on August 6, 2014

You need to solve your issues with this on your end. Refusing to use mainstream methods of communication like text messages and Facebook is just you being weird and difficult. It's the equivalent of someone 10 years ago refusing to have a telephone and then complaining that other people's difficulties communicating with you are their fault.
posted by Jacqueline at 11:02 PM on August 6, 2014

Follow-up from the OP:
Thanks for taking the time to respond. I found most of the answers to be very insightful, especially partly squamous and partly rugose's. Granted we live in a world in which communication is fast paced and asymmetric, I guess my problem is how do I keep up without regressing to texts as a form of communication.

I want to clarify some confusion which was caused by the vagueness of my description: The thing that bothers me most is how Facebook status messages are communicated to me via SMS (not verbatim, but somewhat even more decontextualized into: "Oh, I heard X died, you might want to contact Z about it."). And maybe I'm being unreasonable to expect that news of this kind can be received by me when I'm most prepared, I realize now how unrealistic this sounds now.

Anyways, I've taken to heart the advice of making sure that I receive the messages in ways that don't distract me when I'm working.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 1:32 AM on August 7, 2014

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