Facebook seems to come up a lot lately in the columns….in particular for those who are just coming to it this year (or last year, or what have you…). For many of us who have been on the ‘book for four or five years already, it prevents the post-college (or for the next generation, post-high school) drift from ever happening. But for my parents’ peers, or even my aunt’s (she’s 14 years older than me), there’s a huge rush of reconnecting going on. And many people have questions about how best to approach “friending” those they know they hurt or were otherwise rude to, usually with the intention of making amends. (Equally common is the issue of being friended by someone who you hoped you’d never hear from or see again). Prudence addresses this issue in her column today but, unfortunately, it’s fairly clear that she herself has never used Facebook:
Dear Prudie,I am the flip-side of your letter last week from Bliss in Exile. Many years ago, when I was in high school, I did something very cruel to a friend of mine: I took her boyfriend. Now we are both married to other men. I found her on Facebook and attempted to contact her to apologize for the cruel thing I had done. She took your advice and hit “ignore.” I feel terrible that I was not even given the opportunity to admit to her that what I did was wrong and try to make amends. I also feel a little angry because I think it is immature to hold a grudge or resentment for so long over something that a teenager once did to you. Now that I have been ignored by the person I would like to apologize to, should I just let it go? Or should I take another avenue to try to contact her to tell her how sorry I am?
In response to Bliss in Exile, I have heard from several people who were the miscreants in high school and have successfully used Facebook to contact their victims and make amends. But the problem with simply making a friend request to someone you’ve hurt is that the person on the other end has no idea about your intentions. In cases such as yours, it’s a better idea to use your Facebook network to get an address for your former classmate and write a letter explaining that what you did has weighed on you all these years, you are asking for forgiveness, and that you want to reconnect. Give your phone number and e-mail address and add you’d also be happy to be contacted through Facebook. If you don’t hear anything, just be glad you did the right thing now, and accept that there are some people for whom high-school graduation was one of the happiest days of their lives.
There are two major flaws with this response–first is that when sending a friend request, you DO have the option of including a personal message to explain who you are and why you’re seeking a connection with the recipient. Second is that, for people who restrict their profiles to be visible only by their friends, or at least limit the information visible to non-friends in our network (which I think, and hope, is most of us) you can’t just snag someone’s address off of Facebook unless they’ve already accepted your friendship, even then only if they’ve chosen to post it….my full address is not listed on my facebook profile. If you want their address, without feeling like you’re creeping on them, try….smartpages.com?
Ultimately, leaving this mistakes aside, I agree with Prudence. Reaching out might be a nice gesture. But jeez, people, learn to take a hint! This happens all the time in the columns, with facebook, with email, with voicemail…”Dear Prudence, I’ve sent twelve emails and left 8 messages and the person has not responded. Do you think it would be inappropriate of me to show up at their house?”
Also, for this woman in particular…SHE is the one continuing to make a big deal out of what happened so long ago, not her friend. My experience with high school boyfriend drama is that, 20 years later (or, um, five) nobody cares! Stealing her boyfriend may have been the best thing she could have done for this woman, in terms of removing the wrong guy, and a disloyal friend, from the circle of people she chose to associate with. People who think they are “owed” the opportunity to make amends–especially this many years later to people who probably don’t care–need to get over themselves.
Just because you CAN find someone doesn’t mean you SHOULD.