Dear Auntie SparkNotes,
I need some etiquette advice on how to deal with a friend who is ignoring you over text. Here are the details:
This friend is male and lives in a different state than me. We are not best buddies but we hang out when we are in the same town and we communicate electronically (hence why radio silence is a problem). I don’t bombard him with messages—he’s a bit paranoid about that—and we haven’t had an argument so the silent treatment isn’t okay. It’s rude at this point in the past four months, he’s ignored the only 3 snaps (main communication platform) I’ve sent, one of which was a congratulation on his promotion and another which was a group snap with our mutual friend (my bestie) telling them that I got into my dream university.
I haven’t said anything because I figured he was busy and I don’t want to play into his problem with people smothering him ( I think it stems from the fact that he’s a little bit famous in certain circles). That being said, my friend told me he is communicating normally with her. We are friends enough that I am entitled to an explanation for this sudden absence—because if keeps ignoring me, even if it’s electronically, then we don’t chat, and long term I don’t see how that maintains the friendship.
I’ve held off on confronting him because I really don’t want this to turn into a scenario where he makes it seem like I’m another crazy fan. I’ve known him for years and when someone just starts ignoring you, there is a problem and it needs to be addressed. I can’t seem to find any logical explanation. I’m also tired of his treatment—the last ignored message was a couple days ago.
I want to say something, politely, but also enough that establishes I mean business. A sort of knock it off, or if not, then I can’t consider you a close friend anymore (not meant punitively—I just am not the kind of person who wants friends like that). He can totally say it was an accident/mistake, or I can dial down what I think of our friendship, but I need to know. Were he here in person, I would have no issue confronting him. But how do I do it without getting lost in the void? Especially when he’s been ignoring me electronically? I want to settle this and wash my hands of it. If you think confronting him isn’t the right thing to do at all, I happily will take any advice you have on this situation.
Let’s put it this way, Sparkler: If by “the right thing to do”, you mean “a thing which will accomplish your desired results and bring you any satisfaction whatsoever”? Then no, I don’t think confronting him is the right thing to do at all—for a bunch of reasons you’ve more or less already enumerated in your letter. So instead of instigating a confrontation with the purpose of finding out if you need to reconsider your friendship, I’d like to suggest the reverse: take an honest look at your friendship, and ask yourself if confronting him would really tell you anything about it that you don’t already know.
Here’s why: I know that you think of yourself as something more than just this guy’s fan—but would he agree with you on that? He doesn’t initiate contact with you; he communicates with you almost exclusively on (I’m assuming) the same social media platform where he engages with other fans; and most importantly, even though you’ve known him for years, he’s kept you so totally at arms’ length that you fully expect him to treat you like a stalker if you try to reach out to him in excess of one message per month.
So when you say you couldn’t consider him a close friend if his radio silence continues, Auntie SparkNotes must gently point out that “close” doesn’t really seem to describe your relationship to begin with. It’s not just that the guy isn’t returning your messages; it’s that his boundaries vis-a-vis being “smothered” preclude you from responding to this scenario in anything approaching a normal way. In a healthy friendship, it would be both a no-brainer and no big deal to follow up an unacknowledged snap with a text or phone call or g-chat or something—and you wouldn’t have to be fearful of being treated like a crazed, clingy groupie for doing so, because geez, what kind of self-important butthead reacts like that to getting a text message from a friend?
Yet that reaction is precisely the one you’re anticipating — that is, if he responds at all, which you also don’t exactly seem confident about.
That’s why I want you to ask yourself whether you really need the added angst and drama of a confrontation to tell you what you should think about this friendship, or whether the information you already have is plenty. Even in your best-case scenario (i.e. he accidentally forgot you existed despite remaining in normal contact with your mutual friend), this guy is still a person you apparently can’t be easy or honest with, lest he accuse you of being some sort of obsessed hanger-on. Is that how you want to be treated? Is that how you want to be seen? Is whatever you get out of this very one-sided relationship worth bearing the brunt of this massive power imbalance?
Of course, if your answer to those questions is yes and yes and yes, then hey, you are your own master. But if what you realize is that you’re not getting what you need from this relationship, then maybe it’s time to step back, if not away entirely, and invest your energy in someone who treats your friendship like a gift rather than a nuisance.
Got something to say? Tell us in the comments! And to get advice from Auntie, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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