Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Social Media Faux-pas

I will assume that anyone commenting on a followed blog, or a Facebook page, or a tweet, means well. Almost all do. And let me tell you, sending thoughts out there and not getting comments is a very lonely thing. So they are not only welcome but wanted and appreciated.

But there are the well-meaning ones that manage to be remarkably unhelpful. Remarkable because they mean well. I’m not referring to the few that do not mean well, the trolls, or the ones coming out of folks who just got bad news and think misery loves company is a social commandment.

I have been the unlucky recipient of two of the examples below. But most come from others, friends and acquaintances, who either shared their pain with me or I was there to witness it. Even as they said nothing in retort, it was painfully obvious this was a backhanded compliment.

“You never age!”
“You’re a miracle of preservation”
“How do you manage to stay so young looking?”

Nice, but what they really say, and in a public forum, (like commenting on new Facebook profile picture) is that you are in fact old. Thanks.

“Nice haircut. When will you grow your hair back?”
“I love what you did with your hair. I’ll send you my stylist’s number. You’ll love her.”
“Looks great. Is it Nice and Easy?”

Lovely, but what they really say is that your hair has suffered a misfortune in incompetent hands.

“I loved, just loved, your other book. When will you write another one like that one?”
“I got your book a year ago!” (No other comment. Yup, that’s it.)
“Your book is good for people interested in the subject.”

Sounds positive, but what they are really saying is they can’t recommend it, and need to post a public warning to that effect.

And then there are these doozies. If you’ve ever been in the vicinity of such utterances, you could feel the silent hissing:

“You look wonderful! Are you pregnant?” (Never a good idea to say this, especially to a man.)
“We’ve got to have you over. Maybe next May when our garden is blooming.” (Said in early June.)
“It’s nice that you write for children. Have you thought of writing a book for real people?”

This last one is one of only two that I actually received myself, and from my father. Ouch. Not telling which of the others was also given to me.

Okay, good people. Let’s not do any of that. 


  1. Those people failed the common sense/courteous comments class or else they didn't attend!! I truly believe people don't stop to read what they wrote or think before they hit the publish button.

  2. I think some people say negative things inadvertently, but others stay up nights thinking up new ways to insult!

  3. My mom used the phrase "backhanded compliment" quite often. I grew up knowing exactly what it meant and to hopefully not make those remarks myself. I've known people who are so skilled at them, however, I wonder if it is on purpose.

  4. Oh dear. Why don't people think before they speak or in this case type? :(

  5. Haha, I've been the recipient of many non-complimentary compliments, including: everything is a mismatch, but it still is so you! And when will you write a real book. Yeah.

    Wish I had a witty retort.

    And Mirka, your hair is gorgeous!!!

  6. Funny how compliments can be misconstrued. Makes me wonder if I've said the wrong thing at times (after reading your last reply to Vijaya's compliment, I'm sure I have, but it's true, you do have gorgeous hair and face and...uh oh, I have a feeling I've just insulted your feet!).

    1. My feet can take it, Marcia. :D
      My sense of you is that you never insulted anyone.

      The thing about these sorts of comments is that I think they are innocent, which should make us think before we blurt. I'm guilty, also.

  7. I like to think that most people really don't mean to be snarky on purpose. Most people. Then there are others...

  8. Because I'm super-sensitive (some would say overly sensitive) I try not to make these faux pas. One thing I would add is, never mention a person's book or changed hair without a compliment to accompany it. "Oh, you changed your hair." "Oh, I read your book."

    I never comment even when I think a woman looks pregnant or is wearing what looks like a maternity outfit because I could be wrong...

    I've cautioned my husband to never ask about a spouse or significant other when the person is present without the spouse/SO. Sometimes it's because they've split up...

  9. Okay, right now my mind is ticking back to the comments I've made on social media, furiously wondering if I've ever typed something that meant well but turned out insensitive. I really hope not! (Of course, I've never complimented someone on her new haircut/look then offer to share my hair stylist's namecard. That's either sarcasm or truly awful sense.)