Facebook question

I have a question about what to do about a facebook friend request. I’m trying to figure out what God would like me to do in this situation.

Here’s the story (sorry for its length): There is one branch of our family that has been rather estranged from us for longer than I’ve been around. My aunt-by-marriage has always seemed to rather look down on us for whatever reason. She and my uncle have two daughters (my cousins). The elder of them seems to have cut herself off from her parents and sister, though she has stepped in admirably to care for our maiden aunt who is now in a nursing home. That cousin and I are Facebook friends. I believe she asked to “friend me” as a way to keep tabs on what’s going on with the rest of the family. She posts only rarely.

The other one seems to have followed her mother’s ways. When I was a child, I adored this cousin but when we were teens she did something that hurt me terribly and showed me without a shadow of a doubt that she always thought herself above me. (I have forgiven her and every time I think of her, I pray for her.) I have not seen her in years and our only contact is through Christmas cards (she does not visit that maiden aunt mentioned earlier). The last I heard she is estranged from her sister.

This second cousin recently sent me a friend request (no note, just the basic request). I believe that, like her sister, it’s simply for her to keep tabs on the rest of the family and to report back to her parents.(It’s just how our family dynamics seem to work.) And also because FB is the current trend (I add this not to be catty but just to try to give additional detail. My cousin and her mother always seem to be following the latest trends.)

Sorry for the long background, but I’m stuck as to whether to accept her friend request or not. Jesus says “Love one another as I have loved you.” I do pray for my cousin and wish her every blessing God has for her and her family. However, what about prudence? Do I have to open up my life (including my children, my in-laws, my friends etc. to her scrutiny (and her parents?) It’s not that I have anything to hide it’s just that I don’t see the point of doing so. (FWIW, I post often (maybe one or two a day): a little bit of everything: video clips I like, news about my husband and children, intriguing news items etc. Nothing preachy or risque. There is nothing my cousin could really do with my posts except gossip about them with my aunt and uncle.)

I feel uncharitable for asking these questions but I’m not sure what God wants of me. What do you think?:shrug:

Thanks and God bless,

Well, I think a little bit of family gossip is normal, and if that’s the best way she has of staying in contact with her family, I think you ought to help her. My siblings (I don’t do facebook) have lots of “friends” who they barely ever hear from. Plus, you can always un-friend her, if necessary, and if it does become necessary—I mean really necessary, as in if she does something terrible—your family probably ought to understand.

Thank you for your response.

I understand your point of view. However, I don’t think I’d be hearing from her at all – but she would be having access to important parts of my life, when she’s never seemed to show the slightest interest in it before, except to sneer about them. (I’m on Facebook mainly to keep tabs on my college-age kids, whom she’s only seen as infants. She and her children are slightly older than me and mine. She didn’t invite us to her family events so I’ve never invited her to mine.)

This probably all sounds harsher than I intend. I forgive her for the stuff that went on in childhood. I don’t care whether she invited me to her family doings or not. I just don’t understand if it’s wise to let her into my life now – or if I’m lacking in charity for not doing so.

My thought is that if you don’t feel comfortable accepting the friend request, you shouldn’t. Your facebook page is for you to do with as you wish; there is no moral obligation to let in everyone who comes by.
You don’t even have to say you’re not accepting the requests – just don’t act on them.

You don’t have an obligation to open your private affairs to anyone. Perhaps you could contact her through a different social networking format and offer to throw her a bone once in a while if she throws one back. Maybe you will be so boring she will lose interest.

I don’t use FB, so forgive me if this is a silly question. Can you have more than one account to keep the outer circle from the inner circle of friends?

It’s frowned on, much the same way that using more than one name is in real life—though there are the same exceptions as in real life, for instance you can have a separate account under a pen name if you’re a writer.

You can form a group on facebook just as you can on caf. My daughter formed an exclusive group for immediate family members. No one else can see what’s posted there. That could let you have it both ways.

But is it uncharitable of me to ignore her request?

No. If you don’t want to add her, don’t.

It might hurt her feelings, but if you think she’ll do something wrong to you, it’s in her best interest, too—it’s more charitable not to give someone a situation where they might be tempted to sin.

I wouldn’t add her. If you don’t respond to her friend request she will not be notified , she will simply not be given access to your page. I would not add anyone that I was not comfortable sharing things with.

I once heard a priest say that sometimes the best way to love your neighbor is to stay ten feet away from them at all times. He went on to explain that you can co-exist and not pick fights, and sometimes that is the best you can do… there’s no need to constantly try to become best friends. I think this falls into that category.

I would argue that it would be uncharitable to accept her request. Once you accept her request, you will question everything you want to post.

“Should I post this? Or will that get back to her family? Nope, sorry, the rest of my friends will just miss out.”

It will end up that you stop posting on Facebook and the rest of your family and all of your friends will miss out on your updates.

Thanks one and all.

I’m sure you can pretty much tell which way I’ve been leaning but you have given me solid reasons for it. No I don’t want to give her occasions for sin (gossip). I also don’t want to inadvertently provide ammo for her for my relatives (my siblings, my parents etc.)

I sincerely wish her and her family well but there are parts of my life to which she doesn’t have a place.

God bless you and yours and thanks again.

Google has tried to do that with their new Google+ site. They have it so you can separate your life into “Circles” and you can set certain things (like posts) to only show up to certain circles (so friends, but not family or co-workers for example).

I keep seeing reports that there’s allegedly somewhere around 10 million people on there, but I only know a few who have actually joined so it’s hit or miss if you’re current friends are on there.

You could accept her, but then create a “family group” where you post your family news to. She would not have to be in there and would never know you are posting things to the family group only. Other friends would not see it either who may or may not want/have a need to know strictly family business.

I second this, mainly because this is the situation I’m in now. I have a group of family members whose primary goal in life seems to be to look down on others. While they’ve never treated my wife and I very well, it has gotten much worse in the last 2-3 years, and truly unbearable in the last few months. There’s not a single thing we can say or do that is right in their eyes, and the absolute disgust they’ve shown us over the fact that we had another child has been unbearable. One in particular has made it absolutely clear that he is disgusted by the fact that our daughter exists (he treated us so terribly a few days after she was born that we never sent out birth announcements just to make sure he never received a picture of her), while several others have made a point of not acknowledging her existence even though they’ve been around us multiple times since she was born. Although I posted extremely frequent updates about our daughter the first few months of her life, I’m to the point now where I rarely post anything, and post pictures even less frequently, because I don’t want these people knowing anything about her. It bothers me that the rest of my friends and family miss out, but I’m constantly finding myself rationalizing that it’s better they miss out than letting these others know anything about my kids.

If you create a private group to discuss things you don’t want her to know, you can accept the friend request without worrying about private info being “leaked”.

I agree with most of the responses you’ve received so far. This one, however sound, is still tricky to manage. Private groups or not, just as in real life, you just don’t know who you can really trust. If there is something in your life you do not want to get out to other people in your circle, best not to say or post anything about it. While others may not be able to see the information in your private circle, there is nothing preventing them from copy and pasting it outside the circle.

Also, with Facebook, you may create a photo album and set the privacy to one friend or one group only. This means only those people can access your photos from your page, but friends and I tested the privacy for ourselves. We were wondering if there was a back door into the photos (thinking of protecting photos of our children). I set an album for one friend only. She could see it from her page, the other could not see it on my page or the friend’s, until the one forwarded the link to the other. There is an option at the bottom of every FB photo to share the link. That gave her access to the photo.

As for whether or not it is charitable to not accept the request. I can’t imagine charity would dictate you letting someone into your life that would put you on edge and alert from that point forward. There’s a reason you are uncomfortable with this person having access to your life. I suspect you’ve prayed about keeping her at a distance in real life, this is part of that. I like that priest’s idea about the charitable act being one of forced distance to avoid occasion of real trouble. I hope you can be at peace with your decision.

Thanks for your responses.
After much prayer and a discussion with my confessor, I’ve decided to friend her for the moment and see what happens. It seems to me that – in my case (not necessarily anyone else in a similar circumstance) – not accepting the request is a sign of lack of charity and unforgiveness.

My confessor said that stuff that happened in the past does not exist. Only the present exists now. We are to act like it never happened.
We shall see.

Thanks again for all the responses.

First a brief update: I did friend my cousin who chatted with me kindly when I posted something about my mother’s health. That’s all fine though I suspect from past experience that this was mainly a “fishing expedition” so she could report to her parents. (It’s just how things tend to go with them.)

Well, now I got a new Facebook friend request. This was from a guy who lived down the street from me growing up. We didn’t know each other well but I was a bit of an outcast and he and his group of friends tended to be what we called “burn-outs.” I recall one incident in which they terrorized me. I also see via our High School Class FB page that he is FB friends with a brother and sister who bullied me terribly in junior high and high school. (She twice jammed my arm in a locker. He tried to set my hair on fire in history class.)

I forgive these individuals (I realize they must have had really screwed-up childhoods to do these things). I also truly hope and pray they have changed for the better. And I realize what my most recent confessor told me: That the past doesn’t exist etc.

I know we are to be charitable in all things, but does that mean I have to open up my life to them?

I’m also a bit of a techno-weinie – I really don’t want to have to set up private groups to access different people. My life is complicated enough without that.

Thanks for the help and prayers.

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