Amy Alkon

Social Notworking by Amy Alkon

Dear Amy: My 40-something younger brother has been "friending" my hot female friends on Facebook, women I have befriended in real life whom he's never even met! I said nothing at first. Then, one of these women posted a photo of herself, and I commented on it in a flirtatious way. Up pops my brother, commenting on my comment in a way that killed her ability to respond to me and adding a personal message to me: "Hey, bro, call me when you're up." I was upset that he'd butted into my conversation with her, and I don't think her page is a place for him to leave messages to me. I asked him to remove his comment, and he was upset and insulted. Shouldn't etiquette standards apply online, too? If I'm having a face-to-face conversation with someone, it's considered rude to just walk up and butt in. And, isn't it a little creepy that my brother trolls my Facebook page and "friends" women he's never met? -- Invaded 

Dear Invaded: Facebook brings a lot of people closer, like the hot women you've gone to the trouble of developing friendships with in real life and your brother, who's gone to the trouble of paying his electric bill and turning on his computer.             

Hot women on the Internet -- those who don't take credit cards for their friendship -- can be pretty guarded. Luckily, your brother shares your last name, so instead of your hot friends seeing his friend request and thinking "Eek, who's this perv?" they probably think something like, "Oh, how adorable. Joe Blow has a little brother, Bo Blow." As unfair as it seems that your brother logged in to Facebook and sat there in his underwear helping himself to a salad bar of your female friends, you seem to have misunderstood something about the nature of Facebook conversations. "Facebook" is not the name of a romantic restaurant where you've booked a table for two. You're having these flirtatious exchanges at a "table" for, oh, 547 of a woman's closest friends -- along with any "friends" she might've made through those friends. This might explain why they call it "social networking" and not "social isolation."   

No, your brother shouldn't turn some woman's Facebook page into the digital version of the write-on/wipe-off board your mom used to have by the kitchen phone. Because he got to this woman through you, this makes you look bad by association. So, you aren't wrong to want him to change his message-leaving behavior, and you can call dibs if there's one particular woman you're putting the moves on. But telling someone what to do, even when a demand is phrased as a request (to remove the comment, in this case), generally doesn't inspire him to say, "Right, I was a jerk. I'll change, pronto!" It makes him angry, hurt, and defensive. A more effective approach is telling him you feel bad about something he's doing, evoking his sympathy. That's probably your best bet for getting him to back off a bit from your Facebook harem, considering it's a little late to put your privacy settings on lockdown and way late to take the age-old approach to brotherly conflict resolution: "Maaaaa! Bo's stealing all my hotties -- just like he stole my firetruck 45 years ago!"

The reality is, once he's more established, his priority may shift from needing a signal to wanting a partner. At that point, he may come to see the beauty in the sort of woman who has something on her mind — uh, besides a $200 double-process blond dye job and $600 in hair extensions.

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