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Miss Conduct

Facebook face-off

Advice for dealing with a social media troll. Plus, discussing a friend’s mortality.

Lucy Truman

> A Facebook friend often replies to my posts or comments in a snarky, even hateful way. I am not the only one who has noticed this, and it is getting on my nerves. Do I continue to ignore it? Do I “unfriend’’ her? Or should I report it to her employer — also my former employer, with whom I am on good terms — since most of her mean remarks are posted during work hours on her company’s computer? I have not seen her face to face in awhile and am avoiding it because of her snide remarks.

N.T. / Acton  

Report it to her employer? Really? I’d be surprised if you continued to be thought of highly in your old workplace if you got in touch with them to tattle on a mean girl being snarky on company time. Perspective, please.

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If someone comments inappropriately on your page, delete their comments. A hostile response on someone else’s thread is best ignored or calmly called out for what it is (“Wow, that was a harsh response”).

But this isn’t, at base, a question of Facebook etiquette. Someone you’ve known a long time is being mean to you. The medium is irrelevant. Does the friendship not deserve a little investigative effort on your part? Maybe your friend doesn’t realize how she’s coming across. Maybe she’s angry at you for some real or imagined reason and doesn’t know how to express herself more directly. Maybe she’s financially stressed or sick and is lashing out for reasons you don’t realize.

Or maybe she’s a dreadful person and you only just noticed it, but when you look back, why, yes, she was always pulling that kind of stuff. Is this the case? If so, unfriend and move on. But if there was ever a real heart to your friendship, tell her she’s hurt you and ask her what’s up.

 

> I grew up in the United States, and a good friend of mine there has heart trouble. He is worried. I am, too. He is keeping a stiff upper lip. I am being matter-of-fact about the whole thing: expressing concern but not dwelling on the subject. I can’t say what I really feel, that I fear for his life, because I don’t want to depress him or anything. What would you do?

J.C. / Barcelona

Go ahead and say what you feel, but stay calm about it. Speak your mind with the same honesty that has characterized your friendship, but don’t put him in the position of having to comfort you. You’re opening a door that he can walk through if he chooses, not hanging a millstone around his neck to carry.

You won’t depress him by mentioning death. He’s thinking about it, believe me. And it’s likely that many people in his life are responding to his situation with silence or an insistent optimism that may well be freaking him out.

I vividly remember what turned out to be a minor medical emergency of my own, in which the best support I got was from a friend who made a rather morbid joke that nonetheless captured my own worst fears, fears that no one else was validating.

Your friend might respond to “I’m afraid for your life’’ with “Damn, I was starting to think I was the only one.” Or he may want to move on to something else. In either case, follow his lead.

 Miss Conduct is Robin Abrahams, a writer with a PhD in psychology.

NEED MISS CONDUCT’S HELP?Write to her at missconduct@globe.com. And read her blog at boston.com/missconduct.

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