The Down Side of Facebook; Beware the Hidden Agenda!
Dear Dr. Hurd,
I recently broke up with my boyfriend of two years. We just sort of outgrew one another, and the breakup was supposedly amicable. Recently, and for no apparent reason, he has started attacking me on Facebook. He says I cheated on him, then flaunted it (I did neither). He gets rather graphic about my… well, “physical attributes,” and implies that I sleep around and have no morals, etc., etc. None of this is true. He is making himself a victim of these things he says I did. I don’t know how to begin to defend myself, as Facebook is so viral and everything goes everywhere. I feel helpless and very, very angry.
Dr. Hurd replies,
People abuse Facebook all the time. We tend to blame the medium or technology, rather than the perpetrator. But it’s the abusers who are to blame. You feel helpless, but think about it: Who’s the one at war with the facts here? Who’s the enemy of reality? You, or your ex-boyfriend?
He’s counting on the honest ignorance or possible naiveté of your mutual friends. Will a real friend believe at face value what he has to say? Do you believe someone when they go out of their way to be so hostile? Or do you think, “Oh my, just another lover scorned.”
There’s no whitewashing or excusing what he’s doing. Nor am I suggesting you shouldn’t be bothered by it. The question is how bothered you should be. We live in a world of amazing technology, and anyone can communicate anything they wish —including lies—in the blink of an eye. It used to take printing presses and radio transmitters to accomplish this, and before that it took quills and parchment. Now it’s all just a click away. We have to take the good with the bad.
Facebook makes it hard to defend yourself, but I’m wondering why you should even bother. You know who’s important to you. If they’ve read your ex-boyfriend’s diatribes, then bring it up to them. Think of this as an opportunity to learn who your true friends are. Those who believe your ex-boyfriend were probably never your friends in the first place.
Sure, hold him accountable in any way you can. If you have the means to pursue a legal case for slander, then go for it. Less expensive: Use Facebook’s system for blocking and/or reporting abusive behavior. Make it as difficult for him as you can.
It’s obvious he wants to gain emotional power over you. Your best revenge is to deny him that by making sure your mutual friends know that you’re taking his rants with a grain of salt.
Dear Dr. Hurd,
I have been talking to my family about getting therapy for a while now. I recently had a rather difficult breakup along with a close friend passing away around the same time. The result was my moving back home temporarily. My parents insist on paying for my therapy, but I am concerned that they might try to barge in or intervene in the process. Frankly, some of my anxiety stems from the way they have been minimizing my hurt over these losses. I know they’re trying to comfort me, but it doesn’t work and I’m afraid they will ask the therapist to do the same thing.
Dr. Hurd replies,
I’m always wary of loved ones paying for another’s therapy. There’s almost always (and, in my experience, literally always) an ulterior motive or hidden agenda.
Therapy isn’t like other “ailments.” When you have a medical condition, the goal is clear. You want your symptoms to go away or your disease to be cured. If your family member is paying for that treatment, there’s no question that everyone’s goal is the same. With therapy, however, it’s not that simple. On the surface, it goes like this: “You’re depressed and I want to help you. Please take this money to treat your depression.” If the money went for medication alone, that might be fine. But psychotherapy, regardless of the therapist’s views or approach, is always about ideas, attitudes, and beliefs. People don’t always share the same attitudes, ideas, or beliefs, even about matters of daily living. You said it yourself: Some of your anxiety stems from the attitudes and beliefs of your parents. As a result, you will view successful outcomes of therapy differently than they will. For example, if the therapist agrees with you about your parents and offers you empathy, you’ll likely consider that a successful outcome. Your parents? Not so much.
The only reasonable way to accept their money is to ask them if they fully trust you to determine whether or not the therapist is helpful. Beyond superficial questions like if you feel that therapy is helping, any request for more detail suggests that they probably should not be paying. Therapy is a private matter, and it’s foolish for your parents to think they can purchase some particular outcome with respect to your attitudes or behaviors. That would not go well for any of you.
Michael J. Hurd, Ph.D., LCSW is a psychotherapist and author. His office can be reached at 302-227-2829. Email questions or comments to Dr. Hurd.