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Help! My Daughter is Being Sexy on Main!
Welcome to an advice column by me, Sara Benincasa, a person with many opinions. This column will not diagnose or “cure” anything. Hopefully, reading it will entertain and perhaps comfort you. Think of it as a baby goat in pajamas, but an advice column. Send questions to email@example.com. If I use your question, I’ll keep you anonymous.
Ever since my daughter’s divorce, she has been posting increasingly revealing photographs on Instagram and Facebook. It seems out of character for her, but I think she is feeling free after being in an unhappy marriage for eight years. She is a beautiful woman, but she is still my daughter and I don’t really want to see her in her underwear. At the same time, I don’t want to shame her or inhibit her self-expression. What should I do? - A Dad Who Is Weirded Out
It’s your fault for having a hot daughter! Those are your genes, you probably-hot-piece-of-silver-ass! Okay but seriously, I think your letter is very sweet. You understand that she is a sexual being and you don’t want to embarrass her. But yeah, it’s totally okay and in fact healthy to admit that you do not want to see her in her underpants.
I’d mute her posts on Facebook and Instagram. You don’t say if she has kids, and I understand if you’d want to see photos of the grand-babies. But you can always pop onto her page now and then and just scan with Grandpa eyes to see if the kiddos are wearing cute outfits or graduating from medical school or whatever.
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My friend is posting ridiculous and untrue political shit online. The spread of disinformation is so rampant, and it seems wildly irresponsible to repost a supposedly educational infographic or meme that has been disproven days or even weeks ago by reasonable, responsible sources. She’s online enough to see this shit when it first rolls out but can’t actually Google and see if it’s real?!
She’s so hallucinatory and one-sided that it makes me not want to chat with her at all. We live far apart and aren’t super close, but I’ve known her since high school and always enjoyed her until, well, this year.
It’s getting harder to tolerate somebody whom I believe is actively (if unwittingly) causing harm by spreading lies. She tends to freak out and even become insulting during conflict, so I’ve always avoided getting into any real debates with her. What do I do? - I Know Talking To Her Is Probably The Right Thing To Do
Au contraire! Talking to her is not necessarily “the right thing to do.” The right thing to do is to assess your own values and what is best for you. Now stay with me on this one, because I promise I’m not going to tell you to just turn away from racism, sexism, and untruths in order to “make it nice” (this is a Real Housewives reference I threw in specifically for Robyn, BY THE WAY.)
Spreading lies is always harmful. Now, unless your not-very-close friend is some incredibly influential public figure, I sincerely doubt her posts are swaying a voting bloc or fomenting revolution. However, she’s participating in the incremental work of making shit worse and possibly influencing those close to her. And that’s how the Big Bad Stuff happens, right? Little by little, people turn into acolytes of douchebaggery.
If you believe her to be a reasonable individual who may welcome the opportunity for education and growth, and if you feel you can speak to her in a non-condescending, heart-to-heart type of way, that’s a beautiful thing. Perhaps this is a chance to get closer to somebody who genuinely wants to help her community. If so, I would encourage having this conversation over the phone, Zoom, FaceTime, etc. so that your tone of voice can come across clearly.
That said, you are not obliged to have this or any conversation with her. If you do not have the appetite for engaging in potential verbal combat with somebody who is entrenched in a viewpoint that you find morally repugnant, skip it. Use your energy instead to speak out, to protest, to raise money for a great cause.
My advice might be a bit different if this were somebody close to you, but what I’m getting from your message is that this is an old connection of convenience rather than genuine, present-day love and trust. Social media can lead us to the false belief that we are in community with people who actually don’t know us very well or care very much about us. I have been there myself, trust me! Maybe she was a good time when you were 16, but people change.
This is somebody with whom you have some fun memories but, it seems, no real active connection. This is just another person whose social media platforms function on an algorithm that feeds her things to confirm her own bias, the same way things go for you and I. My Instagram feed looks different from your Instagram feed because I am likelier to engage with certain things. It’s why I get a lot of progressive infographics (all of which need to be fact-checked and taken with a grain of salt, just like the rest!) and people posting about their recently dead pets (OH GOD WHY DO I ALWAYS HIT THE HEART FOR THOSE?!)
But I digress. Anyway, are you staying in touch with this lady merely out of habit? If you decide to just unfollow, that’s great! I say go for it.
But perhaps you wish to send a message to her because you believe that prejudice and lies must be confronted and challenged at every turn. This is laudable, because it isn’t about some quixotic endeavor to “fix” or “change” this person. This is about you acting in accordance with your own ethics.
If it is too painful for you to sit silently while she spreads garbage, you may simply wish to send her a message online. Here is a template you may use: “Hey ____, I’ve noticed you posting some things recently that have been disproven after fact-checking by reputable sources. Examples are X, Y, and Z. I know I’ve sometimes been taken in by viral memes and infographics - it happens to all of us - and figured I’d pass on the info. Hope you’re doing well.”
However she responds doesn’t really matter. Remember that you can always unfollow, restrict, mute, block, etc.
A lot of us are dealing with this shit these days, so thanks for your letter.