Welcome to Tough Love. We’re answering your questions about dating, breakups, and everything in between. Our advice giver is Blair Braverman, dogsled racer and author of Welcome to the Goddamn Ice Cube. Have a question of your own? Write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I’m planning a long backpacking trip for this summer (around 300 miles). It’s my first solo trip of that length and I have been planning it for about a year. I also started dating a guy this spring and so far everything has been great. I thought he was supportive of my trip, but he broke down the other day and told me that he’s uncomfortable with it. He says it’s hard for him to watch because he’s never done a trip like that himself, and it makes him feel like, as his girlfriend, I’m trying to “one-up” him. I feel grateful he told me, but I’m not sure what to do because I can also feel his tension now while I’m planning. He knows that what he feels isn’t right, and he says it’s good practice for him to work through it, but I’m not sure how to support him and myself at the same time.
There’s a lot that could be said about the pressures of masculinity, the weight that those expectations put on men, and the constant work of negotiating and unlearning sexism. But acknowledging those pressures doesn’t mean your boyfriend is fighting them. In fact, simply acknowledging problems can be a way of trying to get credit without taking hard steps to fix them. And even if he’s trying to change, which I’m not convinced of, you don’t have to support him through that journey at the same time as he’s undermining yours. After a few months, people are generally still on their best behavior—which means I’d hate to see this guy’s worst. Break up now and you’ll have a whole lot less psychic weight to carry in your pack.
My friend posts everything on social media, seriously everything. Whatever we do, she posts pictures of it, and if something doesn’t go right or she has an argument with her boyfriend, she posts vague passive-aggressive updates to get people to ask what’s wrong. She is also regularly getting into online feuds and tells me all about them. I have asked her clearly not to post about me when we do things together, because I am a more private person and I would prefer if she didn’t, but she still does about half the time. I confronted her and she said, “If you don’t like it, tell me and I’ll take it down,” but I don’t want to have to do that after things have already been up. She has said before that if someone has nothing to hide, then they shouldn’t mind being posted about, and if someone wrongs her then they deserve to be shamed. I love her but find myself pulling back from her because I feel like everything she does is for show.
At this point in the evolution of the Internet, it’s basic etiquette when posting things on social media to ask permission from the other people involved. Posting a photo of your friend? Run it by her and make sure she feels good about it. Tagging other people at a private location? Check to see if they have any objections. People’s comfort levels vary a lot, and when it comes to broadcasting information about them to the world, it’s polite to avoid assumptions. Plus, not everyone’s preferences are intuitive. For instance, as someone with a larger audience on Twitter, I tend to post updates with a slight delay, because I’m not comfortable with people knowing my location in real time (especially when I’m out in the woods). The need for those boundaries is aggravated with a more public account, but I tend to think that with the internet, erring on the side of caution is a useful practice for anyone.
You can’t control what your friend posts about herself on social media, nor should you try; that’s completely her business. But she should respect your business and your privacy, too—and if she repeatedly disrespects your requests, even after you’ve communicated them clearly, it’s a red flag. Unfortunately, you have to assume at this point that she’s not going to stop posting about you. So you have to decide, essentially, if her friendship is worth those violations, however big or small they may be. If you stay close with her, you will be posted about—maybe that’s livable, but it could also feel gross if you’ve explicitly asked her not to. If you’re still uncomfortable with that, then it might be time to distance yourself and invest your emotional energy in people who are truly respectful of your wishes. I’d recommend distancing yourself slowly and non-dramatically, though, rather than having a big confrontation about it—unless you want your confrontation to become internet fodder, too.