Miss Conduct

Advice: Do I have to be friends on social media with friends who have different political views?

Plus, Miss Conduct sees a social shift occurring, and asks readers for their best ideas.

Submit questions for Miss Conduct here.

I’ve always tried to be less aggressive with my progressive and pacific beliefs. On Facebook I state them openly, however. A friend on the conservative side has sent me a friend request. I would rather not include him, since I don’t want to argue. Is it polite for me to take no action?

Anonymous / Boston

Please reread your opening sentence and find the delight in it that I did! Not mocking you at all, only appreciating the paradoxical human condition.

Sure, you can ignore his request. People are entitled to curate their friends list as they like. But friending someone with different beliefs doesn’t mean inviting unwanted arguments, any more than friending someone who has already binged the entire series means inviting unwanted spoilers. You can not only post what you want on your own wall, but specify what kinds of responses are welcome. This doesn’t apply only, or perhaps even mostly, to politics — it’s helpful for everyone, for example, to say upfront whether a post about a problem is a request for sympathy or advice. If people break the rules, remind them — and then delete comments, unfollow, unfriend as necessary. You explained the house rules and they didn’t want to go along. Anyone finding it too intolerable to read your views without responding on your page can unfollow you. This isn’t rudeness, or censorship, or oversensitivity. It’s hosting the kind of party you want to have in your space.

The aforementioned paradoxical human psychology being what it is, you might find you have fewer arguments with a bona fide conservative than you do with like-minded liberals and progressives. There’s a reason Neil Simon’s The Odd Couple is about a neat freak and a slob: Simon wrote comedies. Two neatniks with slightly different philosophies would be more appropriate material for Jean-Paul “Hell is other people” Sartre.




Dear Readers,

Have you noticed an uptick in gift giving lately? Far-flung friends of mine have delivered ribbon-bedecked rolls of toilet paper, homemade cookies, ice cream, even wine to their neighbors. As soon as my attention span grows back, I’ve got 10 online yoga classes waiting for me courtesy of a D.C. friend helping to keep her favorite teacher in business. I’ve baked a cake for our downstairs neighbors and sent candles and crafts to out-of-town friends.

I’ve always been lukewarm on gift giving, and analyzed its dissatisfactions in 2012, saying that we all had “too much stuff and not enough money.” The coronavirus certainly hasn’t changed that. But other “love languages” aren’t possible right now. Grocery shopping is an exhausting chore with erratic results, so gifts of food have become meaningful again; so many artists, artisans, and small businesses need support that you can feel as good about buying their work as you do about giving it. And in the stressful monotony of these days, during which it seems everyone has either far too much or far too little to do, small novelties and excitements are important. If we don’t bring the joy for each other, who will?

Have you been giving or receiving gifts? If so, what has brought you particular pleasure? I’d love to hear from you.

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