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How To Avoid Awkward Phone Catch-Ups

Plus: the ethics of Facebook tagging.

Posted on May 17, 2013, at 2:00 p.m. ET

I have a friend who is very paranoid about technology, and therefore only communicates by phone. I'm on the other side of the country, and I work 60+ hour workweeks. I find myself avoiding his calls because I'm sick of "catching up" all the time. He's very nice, and he's one of the best people I know, but keeping our friendship alive feels forced. Should I sever ties with this person over the fear of yet another awkward "catch-up?"

I think when I was a little bit younger, I would have told you to stop being selfish and have your monthly or biweekly catch-up phone calls. I always thought, and still do think that, GENERALLY speaking, people don't work hard enough on their friendships, and think of themselves as much busier than they really are. But I used to be much harsher about it than I am now because I sympathized purely with the other guy — the one with more interest, the one doing the work — in your story. And I still feel for him (because he just likes you a lot), but now I get you a little more too. Because of ~growing up~ or whatever stupid thing. I hate life lessons!!!!!!

I don't think this has that much to do with the actual logistics of the thing. His unwillingness to use Facebook or texting isn't really what's keeping you two from staying close. And it sounds like your work isn't really what's keeping you from wanting to answer when he calls. Do you want to talk to him and tell him things or do you not? Him being "very nice" and "one of the best people you know" is not necessarily the same as "this is someone whose friendship I need and want and love." If you feel like the latter has stopped being true, then it might be time to start letting go.

I wouldn't use the word "sever" for what needs to be done here. It'll probably be more like a slow fade. You should try, as much as possible, to let him know when you're unable to take a call rather than ignoring them all. Be honest and kind! Friend break-ups are so very terrible.


Uhhh, this does NOT help me know what you look like.

Is there a weird, unwritten obligation to show photos I'm tagged in on Facebook? To like, make stalking easier for other people? I've been yelled at about this.

Okay, first of all, I was NOT yelling. My voice just sounds like this.

Second of all, what I (or whoever!) meant when I said that you are duty-bound by the Facebook code of ethics to maintain a substantial and reasonable number of tagged photos such that friends (and friends of friends!) can have a fair shot at understanding what you really look like (thank god your hair is no longer like that) and what you're up to lately (wow, your parties look sooo fun) and whether or not you have a significant other (or, omg, wait, is that your SISTER? Why … do you pose with your sister like that? Ahhh. Umm?? Ehh, I guess it's sweet. Wait, but THIS one? Ahhh.) was that this is the kind of thing that people find helpful when they're trying to learn more about you. And that's not your job, and you should never put anything online that you aren't comfortable with people seeing, but having some level of profile/personality/photography available to those you choose to let in is helpful in meeting people and getting to know each other better in this weird way we do life now.

There is just nothing ("nothing") more annoying than becoming Facebook friends with someone you like (even just as a friend!) and finding that he or she is one of those people who only let you see their profile pictures, and two-thirds of those profile pictures are drawings/political banners. Does that mean that person has to change his or her profile? Of course not! Does it mean that, once you've gotten to know each other better through proper and mutually respectful channels and communications, you can harass your new friend about his spartan joke of a profile until he lets you tag him in those pictures you took last weekend? Yes, obviously! You owe us all.

Can you friend on Facebook someone whom you're Twitter friends with? And if so, how do you know when you've reached that "stage"?

Think of your Twitter friendships like houseplants. You put your best, favorite ones by the brightest windows so they get the most sunlight, and you water them daily (watering = favoriting), and for whole seasons you watch over them and wait for them to bloom. You'll just wake up one morning and see little flower buds and rejoice. That's when you know you're ready to be Facebook Friends. After that the flowers will eventually wilt and die and there isn't really anywhere else to go from here — at least not on the internet; I can't speak to real life — BUT on that one day it's going to be exciting so I say go for it anyway, why not.

I think it's fine to add someone as a friend on Facebook if you are genuine Twitter friends with this person. "Genuine Twitter friends" is, I know, both kind of a crazed oxymoron and a rather large, nebulous concept, so here's a rough guideline: If you two favorite each other's tweets at least a few times a week, and send each other short @-reply conversations at least once a week, and this has been going on for at least a month, then I think you're fine to add. If you're regularly sending each other DMs and RT-ing each other, what are you waiting for? This is as good as it gets, buddy! Nothing is going to change when you're Facebook friends, probably, but it lends a sort of welcoming official air to the relationship. Add them for posterity, and then get back on Twitter. It's much better there.

FWD: Halp! is a weekly advice column on how to behave like a person when using technology. Would you like said advice? Email your questions to Katie.

Illustration by Cara Vandermey

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