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Thursday, September 23, 2010

When Is It Okay to Be Facebook Friends With Your Friends' Exes?

Posted By on Thu, Sep 23, 2010 at 9:00 AM

Dear Anna,

I recently had a small event at a local dive bar on a weeknight. So I sent out Facebook invites to a few people I knew who lived close by, including the ex-boyfriend of a casual friend of mine. Turns out, this friend was very hurt and betrayed by the idea that I'd invite her ex to an event. She said she didn't think she could be friends with someone who would do something like that. I think she's being overly dramatic, and at this point, am not sure I want to continue a friendship with someone who thinks a Facebook invite omission is break-up worthy. 

But she has a good point: where does the line fall when being friends with friends' exes on Facebook? And for god's sake, it was a FB invite to dive bar on a weeknight, it's not like I invited the guy to my wedding. What should I do and how do I deal with this situation in the future? 

-Facebook Flub

She is being overly dramatic, FF, but that's the nature of break-ups. Everything you do regarding one person in a former couple is a BIG DEAL that leads to tears and late night phone calls and threats of defriending, but somehow always ends up back at Kevin Bacon. Yours was a minor offense, certainly pardonable by some sort of slight remonstration, 20 lashes I'd say, or posting a video of cute animals doing yoga on her wall, or perhaps a case of Bret Michaels-flavored Diet Snapple. The fact that such a thing exists is proof enough that Armageddon is nigh anyway so you might as well make amends while you still can.

While this casual friend did overreact, there are a few ground rules you can follow to ensure that no more electronic bridges will be burned. First, never invite one half of a former couple to anything, not even something you know they would surely detest. You'll never hear the end of how you didn't include poor heartbroken Hortense, the celibate introvert with no arms, to your bi-weekly swingers archery expedition. Either invite them both or neither. Of course, this varies some depending on whom you were closer to before the relationship met its demise. If the cards fall easily on one side of the aisle, then there is no need to cater to the other person's whims or temper tantrums, unless you need extra fodder for the voodoo ceremony. Also, don't talk about one person to the other. If they inquire, politely change the subject. I've found the varied uses of baking soda and the mating habits of fruit flies to serve this purpose well. Lastly, any behavior that can be perceived as "flirting" (whether in Real Life or on a FB wall) with one or both parties should be avoided. It doesn't matter if you'd sooner make out with Gary Busey in a diaper made of bees than said people. You should still avoid any behavior that might be construed as "inappropriate" until a few months have passed or sufficient closure has been achieved.

To further cement these handy rules in your brain, I've taken great care to rhyme them for you because there is not enough dignified advice in the world that you can also sing zealously around a campfire and/or meth clinic. This ditty is to be sung to the tune of "Do Your Ears Hang Low," if you please:

If you want an ex to show
But not the friend to know
You should keep a low pro'
(Yes, of course you'd stoop that low.)
Don't invite one without the other
And don't sleep with someone's mother
Or your friend will blow ! (Up. Blow up! Christ, people, have some tact.)

Social-media mistress Anna Pulley likes to give advice about how to play well with others on the internets. If you have a question about etiquette involving technology, shoot her a question at (it's not case-sensitive).

Follow us on Twitter: @annapulley or @SFWeekly

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Anna Pulley


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