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Facebook Manipulation

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Dear Knoxonomist:

On Facebook, many of my friends make very emotionally manipulative posts. “If you are truly my friend,” they say, “you’ll share my post.” Frankly, I find this tactic an eye-rollingly pathetic plea for attention. How should I deal with such friends?

—Over It, Bearden

Illustration by Alexei Chitkyine

Dear Over It:

The “if you care” card on Facebook is a  frequent annoyance to the Knoxonomist, not just because it is a pitiful passive-aggressive plea for attention, but because it is such a crudely obvious pitiful passive-aggressive plea for attention. 

Before social media, the average person didn’t have much of a megaphone. Uncle Cletus might drink too much at Thanksgiving and get maudlin, but the whole world didn’t have to witness it. But now Uncle Cletus can with impunity spill his tales of woe to his 1,873 Facebook friends: “The VA treats vets horribly,” he might post. “If you are my friend, you’ll share this, but I already know that many of you will not.” Then inevitably will follow comments offering sympathy, complete with competing tales of woe.

At any rate, what was before kept to the family and close friends is now trumpeted to the world. Now do you not only have to endure the passive aggressive, attention-seeking behavior of those in your own circle, but also you have to endure that behavior from your Facebook friends, most of whom you really don’t know. It’s the equivalent of watching a stranger debase him- or herself in the middle of the mall. 

The Knoxonomist’s advice? Ignore these pleas. If a Facebook friend threatens to unfriend you for resisting such manipulation, well, you know, them’s the breaks. The Knoxonomist needs to trim his Facebook friend list anyway, and it is so much easier to get unfriended than to unfriend someone else, which often results in demands for explanation. (Thank God for “unfollow.”) If for some reason, it is important to stay in good graces with a manipulator, then “like” or “comment” on his or her posts that are not pitiful, if there are any. But the Knoxonomist will never respond to a manipulative plea. The Knoxonomist does not encourage poor behavior.

Why are we so annoyed by such crude attention-seeking ploys? The Knoxonomist thinks it’s because we can feel the manipulation working on us despite our understanding that it is manipulation—and that gets muddled up with the embarrassment we feel when people don’t treat themselves with dignity. 

Now our Facebook friends want us to honor their birthdays by opening our wallets for their favorite causes. (Merely posting “Happy Birthday” on their pages is no longer enough.) Of course, that opens a Pandora’s box of problems. Because almost nobody can afford to donate every time someone has a birthday; one must pick and choose. This friend makes the cut, but that one doesn’t. 

The Knoxonomist is not sure he helped you much, Over It, because the Knoxonomist is over it, too.

The Knoxonomist welcomes your questions—Send your inquiries to TheKnoxonomist@cityviewmag.com.

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