Life’s too Short. Move on; Things You Can’t Unsee
Dear Dr. Hurd,
I’ve been dating a woman for about three months. Last week she called and asked me to go out with her to a nice restaurant. So far so good until this: A couple of hours before we were to meet, she called and said that some friends had come to her beach house unexpectedly and that she would be joining them for dinner. It was clear that I was not invited.
I am actually more angry than hurt, and I’m trying to figure out what to say when she calls me again. I am not beyond telling her to take a long walk off a short pier.
Dr. Hurd replies,
Resist the urge to be mean. Yes, she deserves it, but your being mean will give her a chance to be the victim. Be reasonable yet strong. Just give her the facts. Something like this: “I don’t understand. I put time aside and was looking forward to getting together. Don’t you think it’s incredibly rude to cancel?” Put her on the defensive.
You haven’t lost anything here. We learn about people as we go along. Three months is not a lot of time. Sometimes we learn bad things about people after years of association. Human beings are complex creatures and have multiple layers; many of which are contradictory. When you find someone with stability and integrity, you have found a very special person.
So you’ve learned that your girlfriend is capable of great rudeness and inconsideration. It’s sad, but at least you know. She’s more than inconsiderate; she’s also insecure. Secure people know what they want and say it. If she had lost interest in you, she would not have wasted her time and made a date with you in the first place. If she hasn’t lost interest in you, she wouldn’t have treated this important new relationship in the callous way she did. My guess? She didn’t want to say no to her friends. So she put them first, counting on you to understand. And when she wants you later, you’ll hear from her. It’s called flakiness, and flakiness stems from insecurity.
In order to do what I do for my clients, I have to be a pretty black-and-white person. And I think you should be too. Once people show you something awful about themselves, you had better believe it will happen again if you forgive it. Move on and don’t waste your energy. Hopefully you had some good times during these three months. Now on to better things. In the meantime, relax with a pet, good friends, a movie or a good book.
Dear Dr. Hurd,
My question is simple. Why do people feel the need to Facebook-post images of their (1) fungus-infected toes, (2) recently removed moles (without the bandages!), (3) bloody, recently stitched fingers, and/or, (4) some unidentified but disgusting rash or other growth on their bodies? I am sick of scrolling through Facebook and suddenly being confronted by something right out of Dexter. I have begun to unfollow and/or block these poor creatures who seem powerless against their uncontrollable need to display their nastiness for the world to see.
Dr. Hurd replies,
What’s going on here is, in a word, exhibitionism. I looked up the definition for you: Exhibitionism: Extravagant behavior that is intended to attract attention to oneself. In psychiatry, a mental condition characterized by the compulsion to display one’s genitals in public.
Sexual or otherwise, exhibitionism involves the need to cross boundaries and generate a reaction, most likely one of sympathy. An exhibitionist is the opposite of a private person. A private person has boundaries, a rational sense of pride and a concept of self. In case you haven’t noticed…not everyone has these qualities!
Sadly, the desire for privacy is not obvious to everyone. Some people need to share everything. The kind of people who appear on Dr. Phil, Jerry Springer and the like are most often exhibitionists. Social media is the 21st Century version of Jerry Springer. Keep in mind we’re talking about the Internet. The Internet reduces accountability. Would people posting their bodily ailments on Facebook show these to you outside the Internet? Probably not.
I’m not one to blame human behavior on technology. Technology is great, and we are all responsible for what we do with it. The Internet is a glorious and valuable form of expression. I’m glad we have it. But like anything that powerful, it has to be used carefully. I wouldn’t express anything in that context I’m not prepared to express in real life.
Social media is convenient. You can check in and see pictures of your relatives, their activities, their vacations, their children, and your friends whenever you wish. You don’t have to look at any of it, but it’s there if you’re interested. Some of the people posting these inappropriate displays probably mean well on some level, but they haven’t thought through what they’re doing. Therein lies the solution to handling social media. As with most things: Think before you click!
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.