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Miss Conduct

Two techno-troubles

Dealing with someone who detected an unfriending and nastiness revealed after a pocket-dialing.

Lucy Truman

After high school graduation I cleaned up my Facebook account, including unfriending some 200+ people I didn’t like/found annoying/never talked to. A guy from camp keeps trying to re-add me and has messaged: “Why aren’t we Facebook friends anymore?” Should I respond? He was rude to me for no real reason, and it’s clear that neither of us likes the other.

E.K. / Lexington

I suspect Camp Boy knows exactly what he’s doing, although he might not know the word for it: grooming. This is when predatory people violate other people’s boundaries, first in small ways, then in larger ones. It’s the interpersonal version of the old “frog in boiling water” legend, in which the person being groomed is gradually conditioned to accept worse and worse treatment.

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Go ahead and respond once, for the sake of a decisive break. “Just needed a Facebook purge. Nothing personal!” Then block him and don’t think twice. If I’m wrong and he’s a perfectly decent chap, you haven’t insulted him. If he is a creeper, he may whine and bad-mouth you a bit, but then he’ll move on to easier targets.

After an argument with my husband, I texted a close friend for support. She replied she would call in a few minutes, which she did. Upon saying “hello” I realized she had pocket-dialed me. I tried screaming for her, to no avail. Instead, I heard her tell another woman that my husband is cheap and acts jealous when I talk to strangers — which confounds her because I am 52 and “not hot.” When she called a half-hour later, I told her I’d heard everything. She said I broke the pocket-dial code, which is to hang up immediately. Is this person, whom I completely trusted, worth saving as a friend? Or do I let her go, having learned that the only person you really can trust with private information is your therapist?

L.K. / Norfolk

Your friend acted like a louse. She shouldn’t have talked about you that way. Then accusing you of breaking the “pocket-dial code” is a rhetorical maneuver worthy of George Costanza.

But I don’t know what you and Ms. Pocketyakker have been through together or what kinds of dysfunctions each of you has agreed to put up with in the other. Maybe you can go to your corners and come back ready to hug it out. Maybe not.

What I can tell you is that framing the choice as either forgiving her or never trusting anyone again is self-defeating. Keeping your “private information” to yourself won’t protect you from other people’s judgments. The things your friend gossiped about weren’t even confidential. Other people will always observe and judge and talk. We can hope that they do it in a kindly way, and we can defend ourselves when they do not. But we can’t stop it from happening.

So don’t try. You need more than a spouse and a therapist to confide in. Everyone does. It’s time to look through your smartphone, make some coffee dates, and start turning a few promising acquaintances into friends. (Pick up the tab occassionally, too. Given certain details that I had to trim for space, your husband does sound a little cheap. “Be debt-free” versus “Get the check now and then” is as much a false dichotomy as “Forgive Ms. Pocketyakker” versus “Trust no one.”)

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

ARE YOU ON THE VERGE OF GIVING UP ON AN OLD FRIENDSHIP? Write to Miss Conduct at missconduct@globe.com. And get advice live during a Boston.com chat with Robin Abrahams on Wednesday, August 7, from noon to 1 p.m.

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