If I've been hanging out and flirting with someone who, when I Facebook friended him, is apparently in a relationship, what should I do?
First, rethink everything you ever thought you knew about what flirting looks or sounds like, and then re-rethink it, again. Call your friends — and maybe also some people for whom the term "friend" is, honestly, kind of a stretch — and ask them if they would've thought the same things you did about what he said, and feel relieved for three or four seconds when they're like, "Oh yeah, toooootally. Totally." Then lose that reassurance and call the next person. Realize you are acting crazy and ask your friends, "I mean, am I acting crazy??" They'll say no but mostly they will be lying. Check his Facebook page again and kind of squint one eye closed and then the other to see if maybe it is one of those Magic Eye things. It could be! There are some crazier things you can think of then someone you have a crush on having a Magic Eye built into his Facebook page so that it looks like he has a girlfriend but when you look closely you see that it is maybe just a nice picture of a turtle.
Then, after a few days of lunacy, which is a period of time you are totally owed and in which you can eat whatever weird things you want because I said so, then you back off. It is very likely that this person is behaving badly and, even though he knows that now you know he has a girlfriend (or a turtle??), will continue to do so. But that doesn't mean you get to. You're asking what to do because you know there's a wrong option, and that means you are good, and you should stay good because, though it doesn't feel like it now, it will be better in the end.
You shouldn't send this guy Facebook messages, or at least instigate them, and you definitely shouldn't be chatting. Not because men and women can't be friends or because "just talking" is illegal, but because you know what your intentions would be and they would not be friendly. If I know anything about him (and I think that I do) he is going to keep talking to you and it will be INFURIATING. And there is a chance that something could still happen! People break up! But it is a very small chance, and if you try too hard to make it a bigger one, it will spoil the way it starts. Be friendly but distant and, if you must (and I'm sure that you must), keep an eye on that relationship status. But just one.
Can I still like my ex's Instagram pictures on occasion? Or is that weird/inappropriate/bad/misleading?
I think we can all agree (and by "we" I basically just mean me, like I am agreeing with myself) that I've grown ever so slightly more nuanced in my time as the FWD etiquette columnist, and that I've accepted that SOMETIMES there are other opinions about internet behavior that are, if totally and inexcusably wrong, at least understandable. For example, I get why some people think that Facebook chat is worth using. I would never let them be on my team if there were some sort of internet behavior competition with people who only know each other from Twitter, but I GET them. I guess.
But sustained social media use with exes is an area in which I REFUSE to moderate my stance, goddammit. There is just no reason for this. (Okay, in most cases. And in those rare, RARE exceptions, it is only after some months or years have passed, and both people have had at least a couple of bathtub-induced epiphanies about why it's better that it's over, and both are fine and as past it as it is possible to be.) You are making things complicated. Why? [Avril Lavigne reference.]
If you were the person who did the dumping, this is a passive-aggressive move, one that makes your ex think about you when s/he didn't even want to but leaves no room for response. If you are the person who was dumped, this makes you look like you're still pining. And let's face it, you probably are. But you have to keep that shit to yourself and all of your friends you've ever met. I don't care how good or artful the picture of coffee or whatever is. (I mean you wouldn't DREAM of asking me if you can like an ex's SELFIE, would you???) It is not worth the confusion. Unfollow, unfollow!
I think I'm being subtweeted fairly regularly by a kind of professional frenemy and am not sure how (if at all) to address it.
Here's something about the Twitter hashtag trend #followateen that I would like to point out: EVERYBODY on this planet is, apparently, a teen. At least in behavior, at least on the internet. We might have thought it was cute to follow a biological one, but we are the same and, very likely, worse. If there are actual adults actually subtweeting one another — and not in a cute flirty way or a jokey way or, *does one hundred rapid eyerolls* an "ironic way," but a REAL way — then I am not even sure where to go from here. Things are getting worse.
Subtweeting is the single most passive-aggressive thing that can be done on Twitter, and the correct way to deal with passive-aggression is out-and-out aggression. Send this person an email with a copy of the tweet(s) and say, "Yo, is this about me?" Maybe be more professional though. I don't know where your office stands on the use of "yo." But just ASK this person about it! I promise you will not wilt away on the spot from having to have an in-person confrontation about TWITTER, for Christ's sake.