≡ Menu

To Friend or Not To Friend the Ex.

Skeletons in my closet: To Friend or Not to Friend the Ex.

facebookquestionmarkThe other shoe dropped for me last week.

One shoe: The internet.
Other shoe: The past.

Don’t be smug. You think you’re ungoogleable? You think it won’t happen to you? It will. Skeletons have broadband access in your closet. Prepare yourselves.

I’m going to tell you the story knowing full well that the person I mention, my ex-boyfriend, will probably be reading this. Normally, I am quite polite. I’d steer quite clear of this breach of privacy, but the situation is more and more common and we could all use some help. We need to sit down and talk about this.

So, in the interest of science and all life digital, I will tell you the story.

My ex-boyfriend found me online.

We’re not talking the ex from gradeschool, the cute one with the first kiss behind the willow tree on the playground, in the breezy shade from the summer sun. (That ex friended me too, and that’s cool).

No. We’re talking the person that I thought I was going to marry. A college love. Serious. Meaningful. Heartbreaking. The mess you never ever want to see your children go through. The Break-Up of the Century. That was over 15 years ago. This Ex and I didn’t end well. There was no contact and no closure. I was OK with this.

But then I made the mistake of extending my presence online. See, this web stuff is not only fun for me but it is my job. I freelance and consult about social media. I podcast about social media with 5 other talented people at Push My Follow. My living is made online.

Not that finding me off-line would’ve taken much effort. I still live in the same state. I still keep in contact with mutual friends from college. I even went to a reunion last year (that the Ex didn’t attend). But I suppose ex-boyfriends feel stalkery if they do an analog search. Searching the web, in secret, in private, for someone’s name is easy. It’s almost becoming an obligation. I’ll admit that I’ve looked for my high school boyfriend. If he had a website, I’d look at it. I wouldn’t friend him on Facebook, but I’d like to know how he is doing.

OK, so I’m ALL OVER “teh interwebz.” Search on my name “Christine Cavalier” and you get an 80’s soft porn B-movie star and me. If you search my username, PurpleCar, you get me. Not rocket surgery.

So last week, the Ex that broke my heart and that I never really expected to hear from again found me on Linked-In. He sent the standard first contact connection message: “I would like to add you to my network on LinkedIn,” signed with his name. I knew who it was immediately.

“What do I do?” I thought.   Ignoring or declining the connection request seemed bitter. I mean, it has been many years since the Break-Up of the Century. If I decline the request, I’ll look like I’m too weak to have moved on. And I have moved on. Really. But you know… I don’t forget either.

I decided to go Zen. I accepted the friendship.

“Ok” I thought. “That is going to be that.” A connection online doesn’t mean much. It’s just two ships passing in the night. Maybe in a year or two some silly exchange between college connections would happen, and the Ex and I would be in the same comment stream. Hypothetically:

Mutual Friend #1 (sent to college friends group): Do you guys remember that time in the quad?
The Ex: (reply to all): Oh my god, that was so crazy!
Me: (reply to all): zOMG I forgot all about that! LOL!

And that would be it. Because in real life, that WOULD be it. In real life, the Ex would offer a greeting and see my face and my husband’s scowl and realize that we weren’t exactly comfortable reliving certain old times.

But alas, this isn’t real life. It is online and it is Bizarro World. And my skeletons are clued in to my FIOS install.

Back to the friending. It could have gone better, almost immediately. Here are my Ex’s four Grave Errors and suggestions to avoid them yourself:
Grave Error #1:  The Ex didn’t edit the standard first contact message.


by Quiet Light Photography, who is NOT my Ex-Boyfriend

Mandate #1: If you are an Ex contacting an old flame, you MUST change the first contact message and it MUST say something like this:

“Hi. I found you on here and I just wanted to say, I was a real jerk. I’m sorry. I hope you are happy. I’m happy and I really wish the best for you.”

Boom. PERFECT. From this I, the ex-girlfriend and contactee, get three facts:
The Ex won’t hit me with sob stories of his failing marriage.
The Ex has matured and developed some healthy regret.
The Ex wants some closure and he’s probably safe to connect with.

Grave Error #2: The Ex immediately sends me email.

Mandate #2: DO NOT send email. A “friending” or a connection is very minimal and holds little meaning. It is NOT permission to send your Ex email. You should’ve said what you wanted to say in the initial message (see Mandate #1). You should always wait for the contactee to open up conversations. If that is never, so be it.

Grave Error #3: The Ex compliments my photo, asking playfully if it is a college pic (it’s a recent photo).

Mandate #3: DON’T compliment the ex’s physical appearance. This same compliment, in face-to-face conversation, can be totally appropriate and can be done in a casual way. In fact, if you run into an Ex face-to-face the FIRST thing you must say is “YOU LOOK GREAT!” But in online Bizarro World, this is a total NO NO. Why? Because online conversations tend to get intimate quickly, and flirting online is rampant. To look legit online, you have to be a bit more formal in your first interactions with others.

Ok, so at this point, I figure that he doesn’t spend much time online and doesn’t know these rules. Writing back, I curtly say I spend more time on Facebook than LinkedIn.

The Ex then finds me on Facebook.

Ok, so, again, I accept the friendship, because really, I directed him to Facebook. Still no apologies or explanation for his contact.

He sends an email with a picture of him and his family, the ages of his kids. I did the math: He married and had children soon after the Break-Up of The Century. Ouch. Those skeletons really hurt when they rattle, don’t they? I’d heard rumors about his quick-ish marriage at the time, but I put a lot of effort back then into forgetting it. And here it was, a harsh reminder of those days, dropped in my lap and on my laptop so many years later. Stupid skeletons.

So, yeah, I guess I’m still bitter.

After few days going over this situation with friends, including my husband, I realize that the Ex had committed Grave Error #4.

Grave Error #4: The Ex has friended no-one else.

Mandate #4: Friend other people BEFORE and AFTER you friend the Ex. Friending only the Ex is a classic stalker move.

I gave the Ex 5 whole days to friend at least one other person besides me. In Bizarro World, 5 days is equal to 1.5 Paleolithic Eras. Plenty of time to shed the stalker image.

After 5 days, I did the deed. I de-friended. Both in LinkedIn and in Facebook.

Why? Because whether his intentions were good or bad, he just broke too many rules of the online culture. His behavior made me uncomfortable. I should’ve just clicked the “ignore” button in the first place.

He can still Google me. He can still find this blog and my email address. And maybe this blog post isn’t just to get us all talking about this but to also explain my behavior to him in an indirect way.

But it was all just too weird. And I hated finding this big heap of bitter I have still inside me. Bizarro World has this peculiar ability to strip you naked, from the inside out. Skeletons prefer you that way.

So that is the whole sordid story of last week. I hope it provides more detail than the Mel Robbins show I did on Bordersmedia.com which airs Friday, Feb. 6th at 10 a.m.

Has this happened to you? How did you handle it? Let’s talk.

Except, of course, if you are my Ex. 😉

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Lori Widelitz- Cavallucci 5 February 2009, 7:04 pm

    Very well said. You set the guidelines for appropriate “ex” behavior in Social Media. Kind of weird timing for me because I have 2 friends who aren’t together amymore and I’m friends with both of them on Facebook as of today. Any protocal for this type of situation?

    • PurpleCar 5 February 2009, 7:25 pm

      Thanks Lori! Well, with a mutual friend couple, you can keep both as friends, but keep your status updates clear of mentioning either one. Consider making groups and putting each of them in separate groups. Then use your privacy settings to manipulate the access that each of those groups have to your profile. You may have to choose who gets to see your updates, your friends’ updates, your friend lists, etc., but you’re just going to have to proceed in careful steps. DO NOT de friend or block unless you have personal reasons to do so.

  • Chance Abattoir 5 February 2009, 7:15 pm

    Grave Error #4 is really creepy. You shouldn’t have friended him in the first place just based on that alone. I started a myspace account once with my given name, but no friends, no info and no pictures, and two weeks later I received a way-too-cheerful message from someone I hadn’t spoken to in 10 years (and we’d had an emotional and explosive end). Thus ended that experiment; I canceled that account.

    Googling people isn’t stalkery; it’s something to do when bored. It’s like people watching at the mall while you sip on a cup of joe.

    I don’t have this problem of unwanted people popping up. I try to go strictly by a nom de plume on the interwebs (so much so that real life it’s starting to carry over into real life), but I understand that doesn’t work for well-adjusted people without a healthy sense of paranoia or enough exposure to (or participation in) trolling to know better.

    • PurpleCar 5 February 2009, 7:37 pm

      Yes I suppose I should have noticed that right away. I mean, I knew he was new to Facebook, so that was ok. But I suppose I could have tried to see his public profile on LinkedIn first. I thought for sure he’d find more people to friend. It was the nail in the casket for sure.

  • Rosyblue V 5 February 2009, 7:53 pm

    This is one of thee best post I have read in awhile, because I laughed and can totally relate. I was once contacted by an ex. He didn’t apologize to me (our breakup was in the middle of a busy street in L.A.). He just called to see if I was in another relationship and to tell me that he met this amazing woman. At the time, I thought, WOW and felt like crap. But, after a day, I realized that he is a first class jerk, who would have the gall to contact an ex and tell them about the new woman in his life. I said, no more feelings about him, period. That’s my story.

    • Rosyblue V 5 February 2009, 7:56 pm

      I totally forgot to mention about your post, I love your guidelines. Thank you!

      • PurpleCar 5 February 2009, 9:10 pm


        LOL. Thanks for coming! In the middle of a street in LA? Jeez, I’d rather break up over facebook! Hopefully this and other similar conversations will go into a “Manual for Exes” book that all people must read before entering the online space!

        Oh, wouldn’t that be nice?


  • Paisano® 5 February 2009, 10:44 pm

    Thanks for sharing such a personal experience. I know it will help many people out there who are experiencing the same thing. I know I have and I’m still dealing with own skeletons and memories. This is the first tipsheet for e-tiquette for old flames I’ve seen anywhere. Well done, my friend. Well done.

    • PurpleCar 5 February 2009, 10:52 pm

      Thanks PAI! You are the salt of the earth!

      I may write some more guides, perhaps for bosses and employees, in-laws, teachers, students.

      What do you think?



  • Vanguy 6 February 2009, 2:36 am

    Interesting topic – enjoyed the read!
    Sorry I don’t have much to add.
    I’ve handled it on a case-by-case basis,
    but the issue has certainly come up.
    I’m relatively close with almost all of my exes,
    so it’s not a very emotional/dramatic deal.

    • PurpleCar 6 February 2009, 10:27 am

      Hi Vanguy!

      Thanks! I like how you phrased your response, it looks like a poem. I love hearing these stories from people that they can be close with their exes. I’m just not that kind of person. If the relationship was at all serious, I REALLY don’t want to hear from any of them again. But this particular relationship was very serious, and there is just no way it will ever be “healed.” Better to let skeletons rot, locked away in analog closets forever.



  • Bill Cammack 6 February 2009, 2:49 am

    Yeah, that’s a tough call. Being that you’re saying the breakup was a bad one, I would think his first goal would have been to “clear the air”, but it doesn’t seem like he had any particular identifiable goals other than just getting back in contact with you.

    Sounds like you did the right thing for yourself, emotionally. 🙂

    • PurpleCar 6 February 2009, 10:23 am


      Yeah man, why not just come right out and state your goals? I mean, I don’t get that. By not coming clean immediately, it makes the whole gesture seem wonky.

      Anyway, “closure” is overrated. I have the CLOSED sign I need on that relationship. No more openings necessary.



  • Rick Rey 6 February 2009, 3:02 am

    Hmm I have to disagree about a few of your “grave errors.” Everyone has a different way of interacting online and a different comfort level. Call me crazy but I don’t see anything wrong with getting in touch with someone from your past, even if it means going out of your way, especially if there are unresolved issues. You presumably spent years of your life with this person, so I think you owe it to yourself to spend a little extra time healing old wounds and setting the record straight. Maybe he feels bad but doesn’t know how to broach the subject, or maybe he’s just clueless when it comes to social media.

    I’m in contact with a few ex’s on Facebook and only once did I de-friend somebody. In this particular situation she was also texting and calling, etc – so I felt I needed to just cut off all contact. For the most part, though, I think friending ex’s is a good thing and encourages more peaceful breakups (is there such a thing?).

    • PurpleCar 6 February 2009, 10:21 am

      Hi Rick!

      I hear you. And I hope you know I was being cheeky by using “grave errors.” It was to go with the skeleton theme. They aren’t huge errors, just missteps really. Forgivable in almost any other circumstance.

      Some issues in life do not get resolved. And that is OK. My record is straight, I don’t need to hash over old wounds. Not to be rude, but it’s his problem that he wants “closure” or “forgiveness” not mine. And anyway, who KNOWS what the Ex wanted, he never made it clear up front.

      That is awesome that you have healed all the wounds with exes and now can be friends with them on Facebook. I wonder if that is rare or the norm. But in this case, in my situation, the relationship and break-up would dictate, in normal society etiquette, that absolutely no contact happen for the remainder of our days. Just because Facebook makes it easy doesn’t make it right.

      It is cool that you have it all worked out, though.



  • Arthur 6 February 2009, 10:48 am

    You know, as I read this, at first I was like, “Wait a minute, who was the ex?” It hit me later on. Shameful since I was there for the whole thing. LOL. Wow, it seems like a million years ago.

    I don’t know…in regards to No. 1, an air-clearing was definitely necessary, but if it were me, I don’t know if I would have wanted to do it in the contact request message. However, if accepted, it would be the first message I sent. (Because then I feel it’s a private thing between the other person and I.)

    However, No. 4 is pure creepzilla. Wait, you can’t find anyone else to friend you on Facebook but me? No one? Seriously? The other day, I got a FB friend request from a woman who I used to chat with on a BBS system like 15 years ago (back when the Interwebz was in its infancy) — so it’s not exactly hard for folks to find each other there. To not friend anyone else … wow. That’s just … wow.

    When I think about what my reaction would have been if one of my “serious” exes tried to friend me, there’s only one that I would be leery about. And out of all of them, she’s the one who would probably try and track me down. Guess that’ll be a bridge that I’ll cross when the time comes. (And when it does, and I blog about it, please refer me back to this entry. Thanks.)

    • PurpleCar 6 February 2009, 10:56 am

      Hey Art

      my good buddy Art. Man, did I ever thank you for being there for me back then? What a fucking mess, huh? Thanks. You are a true friend, then and now.

      So yeah, you totally know who I’m talking about. And you can attest that there is just NO WAY IN HELL any conversation is going to start, no matter how hard I try to go Zen. I’m just not that transcendent!

      I hear ya on the first message thing. He could have at least changed it a little, like Hey, friend me so I can send you an email. Something.

      But yeah, it was the pure lack of online etiquette of not friending anyone else that put me over the edge. I have no idea why he did that but in my online culture that is the same as saying “I am hunting you down.” Um, hello? No.

      Love u!



      • Arthur 6 February 2009, 3:06 pm

        “I’m just not that transcendent!” HA!

        That reminds me of a line that I delivered during a break up with the potential stalker after she apologized and asked me to take her back (and bear in mind, she was one of these really cute, smart and articulate girls that could simply pout and say sorry and 99 percent of humanity would forgive her):

        “It would take a really good man to forgive you for what you did. Unfortunately, I’m not that man.”

        Gotta admit, that one still makes me feel good.

        • PurpleCar 6 February 2009, 3:57 pm

          AWESOME. Exactly. We can only be our best, and my best is NO where near good enough for this right now. Another 20 years maybe. Doubtful, but maybe. So, you and I are a motley crew, not transcendent and not good. LOL!

  • Calla 6 February 2009, 1:05 pm

    i had a Grave Error #1 with an ex on Myspace. said ex messaged me to say “oh hey, how’s things? things here are great. oh by the way i’m getting divorced.”
    um.. what?
    i know the kind of person he was and i know his motives were not simply informative in nature. i don’t know how people don’t think someone can see through that type of action. i had posted on my LJ about this situation (but it’s friend’s locked). when this person tried adding me on facebook, i declined the request after feeling ill at the sight of their picture.
    now today i was on facebook, found a different ex, looked at their tumbnail and started to cry. WTF!

    • PurpleCar 6 February 2009, 4:06 pm

      LOL well, Calla, I guess it’s good that the myspace ex made it clear that he was trying to see if you were available for a booty call.

      I have this sinking feeling that people keep exes as possibilities in the back of their minds, like “just in case” insurance.

      So sorry that so much emotion welled up today from facebook! God, none of us are really ready for all of this, are we?



  • Mightay Mightay 6 February 2009, 1:18 pm

    It could have been worse. You could have actually been engaged to the guy (and just months away from the wedding) when he went to “visit” his island home and forgot all about you and never came back. Whew! Did I say that? lol. Nah… but I’ll be honest. Not only have I not friended him either time I received his request, if college friends of ours have him on their list, I won’t friend them either. I’ve never written this anywhere but people who know me know that during our breakup 10+ years ago he virtually took a baseball bat to my entire life and in the most brutally public way you can ever imagine. In fact, I could never have imagined it before it happened. I lost nearly everything. I almost died. No kidding. In our case, the end was so catastrophic the two “streams” cannot co-exist. We’re both doing well separately, he’s thousands of miles away -which I feel very lucky for!- and I see no reason to bridge that gap. Not only that but I’m now married with my own gorgeous little family which I love to pieces and am so grateful for. Strangely enough I’m actually not walking around bitter, and the ex and I talked by phone a few years ago. Really. But this remains the fact: You can’t love him and me.

    • PurpleCar 6 February 2009, 4:08 pm


      Sounds pretty horrendous. Let’s just say I know intimately a person being pulled away from you by a culture and a geography problem.

      But yes, you get my idea. There are just some streams that need to stay apart. Geography alone used to take care of this.

      Thanks for sharing that story. Your unfortunate case is exactly what I was talking about. Sometimes a break is better left broke.



  • Quiet Light Photography 6 February 2009, 1:22 pm

    HAHA… I knew that SOMEONE would finally appreciate this picture. Nice blog, it amazes me sometimes how the ex can quickly become the “psycho ex” by stupid behavior.

    🙂 Happy to be a part of your blog and thanks for giving a trackback.


    • PurpleCar 6 February 2009, 4:11 pm

      zOMG! Thanks for coming and commenting. You are the first person whose photos I’ve used from Flickr that has actually commented! Thanks so much. I LOVE the pic – very creative & funny. And isn’t it just perfect for my post? The only thing that could have been better would be if the skeletons were sitting in there on laptops. Work on setting up that shot for me next time ok?

      I’ve gotten a lot of side comments about your pic – people love it! Hopefully people will navigate back and look at more of your Quiet Light Photography (great name and great photos too!)



  • ebradlee10 6 February 2009, 5:14 pm

    You did the right thing.

    You did the HUMAN thing to start and when he didn’t participate like a normal person would, you axed him.

    There are many grey areas, but you handled it well. Generates good discussion too!

    • PurpleCar 6 February 2009, 5:19 pm

      Oh thanks EB!

      I always kick myself later for being HUMAN. Sometimes I want to be tough. Unapologetic. Like I picture empathetically challenged men to be. But you make me feel better for trying to be cool with it. And it would have just been a friending and done … if it all didn’t get so creepy quickly.

      Anyway, thanks, that really does make me feel like I’m not an idiot!



  • David LaMorte 6 February 2009, 5:19 pm

    I have friended a woman I dated before my wife because I didn’t want her to feel slighted. I probably would have prefered not to, but it allowed me to avoid a lot of conflict.

    • PurpleCar 6 February 2009, 7:39 pm

      LOL, Dave! Slighted? Wouldn’t breaking up with her pretty much be the biggest slight? I mean, after that, then a simple Facebook Ignore would pale in comparison.

      Interesting that you felt social pressure to friend her. What did your wife think? My husband is confused why I would even think twice about ignoring my ex. It’s also interesting that just accepting the minimal connection helped you avoid conflict! What is the conflict? Would mutual friends pressure you, think you are a jerk for not friending? Would your ex gf start fatal attractioning you or something? Fascinating, all of it.

      Thanks for that… I think you touched on an unspoken social pressure nerve there that we all have to bring out in the open.



  • Greg Hollingsworth 6 February 2009, 5:20 pm

    I have promptly ignored both of my exes who attempted to friend me on Facebook. It’s not out of dismissal (although it is dismissive), it’s because that chapter of my life is closed. I am not friends with my exes, they are no longer part of my life. Granted, I only have two exes, one of which is still friends with many of my friends, and yet we have never (in the 8.5 years since we broke up) been in a social situation together.

    You’ve already told me at least once that this is a standard guy response, and it may be that, but to me an ex is exactly that, ex. This is someone who was more than a friend, not someone that I had a fight with over something stupid like I have had with my best friends countless times. These are people that you have shared things with more deeply than even your best friends, and when it ends it ends, it generally can’t (or at least shouldn’t) return to being “friends”.

    My two cents anyways (possibly more like a quarter).

    • PurpleCar 6 February 2009, 7:48 pm

      Greg, I totally agree. An ex, a serious ex, is something more than a friend. People will always feel like they own a piece of you once you’ve been in a serious relationship with them, ya know? Like, “Don’t fool me, I KNOW you.” And if any ownership at all is still felt there, then no amount of Zen would make it ok to friend a person online. It seems like your circle of friends respects that you really don’t want to share a table with your ex ever, and they plan around that. Good friends, you have, young padawan!

      I think “standard guy response” is identified as the response that lacks empathy and etiquette. This is a good thing, sometimes. For some reason women are the guardians of polite norms. This is ridiculous, of course. But here I am, being Miss Manners for The Internet. When I finally defriended the Ex, I tried to “think like a man” and forgive myself for any perceived breach of etiquette on my part (forget about the ex’s breaches – this was just about my behavior).

      Anyway, if I were a guy, I’ll tell you one thing, I wouldn’t want my female speaking with ANY of the ex’s she’s slept with. Seriously. I mean never. It’s not a possession thing, it’s a “I know how other guys think” thing. On that alone, I should have clicked IGNORE out of respect for my husband. I get confused between thinking like a man and being Miss Manners sometimes.



  • Rick Wolff 6 February 2009, 6:19 pm

    Well, as a newcomer (comparatively) to social media, and as an ex-boyfriend to a few women, with a “breakup of the century” about a century ago, I am of two minds. Your explanations of online etiquette make perfect sense to me, seeing as once I gained some online literacy, I could get a view through the other monitor, see the world (this “space”) from the other participant’s eyes.
    Now for the other mind: it’s possible to be so unaccustomed to the degrees and articulations of privacy on these sites, especially Facebook, and so green-horn about what and what not to type, that it never occurred to him to think how what he’s doing looks.
    On LinkedIn and some other sites, there’s a button that shows you your profile as others will see it. I love that feature. It gets you to think beyond the profile, to your every keystroke. It’s an acquired skill, and you have to know you need it. Something that comes slow to us guys, even offline.
    You did nothing wrong. You have to look out for yourself. But sometimes the explanation can be just simple ignorance. Isn’t that possible?

    P.S. I just Googled my “breakup of the century” woman. Her maiden name is Holly Stickles. Only now did I realize her mother had a sense of humor!

    • PurpleCar 6 February 2009, 7:57 pm

      I hear you, Rick, and thanks for coming!

      But here’s the thing, which is at the crux of the matter. He should have never contacted me in the first place. I was shocked by his audacity, actually. But I gave him the benefit of the doubt, even with social media etiquette, all the way through. In the end, he made the point that he only came into the space to find me, not to participate in the culture. Hence I rethunk my original decision and sent him a message, which I hope is quite clear.

      To be truthful, I don’t have much sympathy for this person. This is where my whole heap of hurt is still standing guard in front of the bitter bricks and refuses to budge. Some. shit. still. stinks. The only solution is to shut door and move.

      That being said, I like your hint about the “view profile” buttons. Those are helpful.



  • DMahoney 6 February 2009, 6:26 pm

    I’ve been thinking about this for a few days since I first read this. Glad you RT’ed the link. I think it’s important to have rules to live by on social networks. I’ve made some decisions about who to friend and who not to. (No to the colleague at work who didn’t think twice about talking about a student’s UTI. No to my brother-in-law – who probably doesn’t even notice – since I’d like to keep my rants about MIL out of the family.) I have contacted the ex through LinkedIn, but nothing more than a hello. And later a congrats when baby #2 came along. These were my calls, but I’m satisfied with the decisions. As in all social interactions, if something feels weird, it probably is weird. Unfriend and move on.

    • PurpleCar 6 February 2009, 8:06 pm

      Oh good, DM, I’m glad you saw the retweet and came back after you mulled it over.

      Rules to follow are very helpful to new people. Decisions are easier when you have an authority’s guidelines to reference. Guidelines remove the guilt and self-doubt.

      It really all depends on what you want out of Facebook. You seem to keep your circle tight, and you actually use it to increase your connections to people who are your real life friends. So, thanks for pointing that out. It makes me think more deeply about the etiquette. Because etiquette is about making other people feel at ease. If other people feel more comfortable with small Facebook circles, I need to write guidelines for them too. Thanks.

      Why, though, may I ask, did you connect with the ex through LinkedIn? What was the motivation? Did you break up with her or did she break up with you? Does it matter? Were you just curious? Why not leave it be?



  • Len Edgerly 10 February 2009, 10:18 pm

    Great dissection of a ticklish situation. I had an ex friend me in FB, and so far she has not broken any of the rules you suggest, and it seems cool. Also, the PMF conversation on this topic, which I listened to in its entirety today, was terrific and made me want to read this post. Bravo to all…

    • PurpleCar 10 February 2009, 11:15 pm

      Thanks Len! Glad to hear your ex situation on FB is going great. It’s a fine balance, isn’t it? Scales can’t be tipped in either direction when walking that fine line of online etiquette or lest we fall into the abyss.

      We need to call out these unspoken connection rules and grapple with them. A Facebook connection is less significant than a snail mail letter and less significant than a phone call, yet so much more accessible. It all adds up to no good in the end. What drives it is curiosity. I have to admit I’m curious what the Ex really wanted with me. Why contact me after all these years? But curiosity, especially in matters of past fates, isn’t a good thing for little kitties.



  • PurpleCar 11 February 2009, 10:48 pm

    Hey all, for some reason Otir’s video comment didn’t make it in… will have to ask some ppl at Disqus about that. Or maybe seesmic? Well, anyway, doesn’t matter. here it is: http://new.seesmic.com/videos/XffkBfiGp1

    I answered her on Twitter, in DM. I feel crappy. I seriously never wanted to hear from this particular ex again. Ever. But, such is life. That’s what happens with early adoption. No-one has yet learned that a Facebook page, google rankings, and just general presence online aren’t open invitations to connect. Just because a person seems familiar doesn’t mean they are.

    • Otir 16 February 2009, 1:07 pm

      Thank you very much PurpleCar for reposting the link to my vanished comment to your post! This time I am not even trying to video my reply, although it is always easier for me to post a spoken answer in English (I wish I could hide my awkward syntax in English I guess 🙂

      Yes, I was mostly interested in knowing how you were feeling because this is what strikes me most in your story, and some other stories that we all see on social media: it seems that the “social” part of it leaves one aspect completely behind: there are two involved in the interaction, not only the one self trying to reach out and gain from the contact (the narcissistic part of the social media).

      It seems that a lot of what is developing with the growing success of social media is overlooking completely at this. I see people running after others to increase “their” visibility, their number of followers, their audience, their popularity… others seem to have become an object towards their own search for self-pleasure or acknowledgement, like if being greedy not anymore for candies or cash, but fame. In the process, the feelings of the others are totally disregarded and this is my main concern.

      I am sure the new violence online lays there. Because it does not show on the screen, the majority of users completely overlook at feelings from their “contacts”. There is no more real contact. If by any chance the ex had bumped into you in a social setting, he would not have been suspected of stalking (even if it had been his actual endeavor to find you and meet you in that place), because of the same benefit of the doubt that you initially gave him by accepting his contact request online. There would have been moments of shyness, or embarassment, or what else. There would have been acknowledgment of the awkwardness of the situation, probably. There would have been those immediate feedbacks that fill the air and maybe stir mud in the reactions that we all may regret later (like not having the time to find the right words to say, or the right behavior to have).

      All of these could be possible online: we have the time to think twice, to put ourselves in the other one’s shoes before doing something completely hurtful, or that maybe hurtful. And yet, very few do it. Very few use the social media for actually improving the “social” aspect of our lives. They just use the media.

      I really thank you for having posted this story, despite your feeling so crappy about it. My hope is that the feeling can fade and the discomfort and hurt disappear very soon, and be transformed in a better feeling, one of growth and connection.

      • PurpleCar 16 February 2009, 1:28 pm

        Hey Otir! Great points, all of them. I personally am not knocking on everyone’s follow door, as I don’t actively search for connections often (I have plenty!). But I see how we all can miss the very basic premise you posit: Some people just don’t want to be found.

        Now, simpletons will argue that those who don’t want to be found shouldn’t be on Facebook, but we all know that there is room in social media for even the most shy people. Just because someone has a Facebook page doesn’t mean that they want to hear from every past friendship. There are boundaries, and we all will ignore them at our own peril.

        In no social circumstance would there be any reason for my Ex to speak to me, not even at a college reunion. He would have been able to read that from my face. Online, we lack the interaction and subtle body language cues, which means we should proceed with even more caution when linking up with a long lost friend. It’s doubtful my Ex thought twice about how I’d feel about his contacting me. Men especially seem to need this wake-up call, that not everyone wants your presence.

        “Put yourself in the other’s shoes” is a great rule of thumb before clicking send, friend or end.

        Thanks for reminding us!


        P.S. I’m not done feeling crappy, but I’ll get over it. The whole situation has just roiled up a big mound of hurt and anger I haven’t thought about in years. Sometimes being an early adopter can totally suck.

        • Adrian Bacon 13 October 2011, 6:55 pm

          On facebook, I message first (if possible) and leave the option to friend up to the ex. If no friend, maybe one or two further messages a couple of months apart, if still no response, then I go no contact.

          • PurpleCar 13 October 2011, 7:11 pm

            That’s a good and polite strategy. You can add a “Hey, I’ve come a long way and hope all is well with you, too. Saw you on here and just thought I’d say hello. I know we left on bad terms but I’m hoping we can reconnect as better people, just as friends” note with the friend request.
            But I’d have to suggest: if you don’t hear back from the first request, don’t friend again. Facebook is pretty reliable with friend requests. The first ignore should be sufficient for you to give up. Just MHO.


  • MS 26 February 2009, 4:54 pm

    For those that are married, do you think it is a sign of disrespect if the spouse reaches out to an ex (who they might consider a “friend” now) especially when their husband/wife are on their friend list as well and can see it happen? I have had this debate with some people and were wondering if that disrespects the marriage. Also, what do you think the protocol should be if say this same married person is tagged in a photo with another boyfriend/girlfriend?

    • PurpleCar 26 February 2009, 8:57 pm

      What unsettles me about your question, MS, is that part where you say “see it happen.”

      Couples should always have good communication lines open. If a spouse is worried about what their partner will think about a certain status update, then perhaps a discussion before the friending should occur. When in doubt, ask. Here’s an example way to open up that conversation:

      “Hey, I see Miss Ex-Girlfriend/Boyfriend on Facebook. Do you mind if I say hi? I’m not being weird or anything, I just wanted to run it past you.”

      Friending anyone on social network sites is an activity wrought with meaning or totally devoid of significance. Or something in between! The only way to know which way it’s going to roll is to ask the friender. There are no cookie-cutter rules with this. This is one of those pesky gray areas when every situation will be different.

      The best practices, though, are honest and open communication habits with your spouse. If you are worried how the spouse will react to the status update that says you’ve just friended your ex, then you should use that worry as a wake-up call that you haven’t done the relationship work with your spouse that needs to be done. I repeat: When in doubt, ask.

      As for photos, the same advice applies.

      That being said, I’m against posting media that show proof of any past romantic relationship. A spouse should remove the tags of themselves. It is one thing to have and demonstrate a current platonic relationship, but it is another to display media promoting a past relationship. Media makes things seem current, and I’m afraid the motivation behind publishing exes in intimate ways is a bit more sinister than simply waxing nostaligic. Putting pictures up of you and your ex in a loving embrace is a way to “claim” that ex as yours, even if just partially. It’s like proving ownership; “Ha. Ha. Look at me. I had him first!” I can see maybe formal pictures, like a group photo from high school (MAYBE) but anything at all affectionate is a definite no-no. It’s just bad manners. The best course of action for that is to remove your tag or kindly ask your spouse to remove the tag. If the owner of the media re-tags you or your spouse, then explain to the tagger that the photo isn’t welcome in your photo stream, and to please remove the tag. If the owner doesn’t remove the tag, de-friend them. They won’t be able to tag you again.

      Good luck. Let me know if any of this helps!

      • MS 27 February 2009, 10:45 am

        Thanks for the response. I agree 100% with your comments.

        I think most times, it is someone else ((an old friend) who posts old photos which may include someone’s spouse with an ex and rarely, if ever the couple themselves. The problem with simply de-friending someone who may not take down a photo you deem objectionable is that the photo will still be seen by other people who may be common friends who may know what the photo is showing. However, I guess if that person values your friendship (on all levels and not just on FB), they would almost certainly agree to take it down. If not, I guess there is a bigger issue there that would need to be examined.

        • PurpleCar 27 February 2009, 10:55 am


          Thanks for commenting and bringing this up. It is a really good point and I should post about the whole photo thing separately. This is a brave new world; sharing photos used to be limited by geography and small scale exposure. “Teh interwebz” erases those barriers. Still, common courtesy should be our guide in this. Unfortunately, common courtesy seems to have been lost in the ether right now. I’m trying to snap people out of the haze. We could all use some reminders that, indeed, this isn’t rocket surgery. Just because the tool is new doesn’t mean the etiquette is.

          Thanks again. I’ll start working on the media post.


  • cc 1 March 2009, 8:38 pm

    Great, great post! Very good advice, all around. Love Mandate #1 message (“Hi. I found you on here and I just wanted to say, I was a real jerk. I’m sorry. I hope you are happy. I’m happy and I really wish the best for you.”).

    I completely avoided social networking sites for years because of a stalker ex who made my life hell for a long time. Just now coming out of it but still waiting for the shoe to drop on me. Or be thrown at my head.

  • topgold 2 March 2009, 3:41 am

    My experience is a little revealing. I watched an ex connect to me on Facebook, then remove the friend link, then remove her photo collection from Facebook. I think she’s actually set up with another account, using a different last name. That kind of electronic erasure isn’t normal in these cases.

  • monkeychick 24 May 2009, 4:17 pm

    Okay, I know this is an old post but it came up on Google. How about this for a situation. I’m separated, have been for five months and just waiting on the papers. My ex-boyfriend who was the boyfriend for four years sent me a message on myspace and FB (I think) and said he was sorry for everything, never meant to hurt me. This was a year and a half ago when I was still happily married and him still happily single. Fast forward to the situation now, I’m getting divorced, he’s with a girl who was a friends with benefits girl that he got pregnant. She’s due in a few weeks but he loves her a lot, just not enough to marry her, he says and they live together. Anyway, I live a couple of hours from where he lives (our hometown) and he was in the city I live in now for work stuff. He sent me a text (yes we have each others phone numbers because I asked for his a year ago) saying what was fun in my town. I explained the things we got and then I asked if he wanted me to take him around, show him some fun stuff. He said yes and asked where we were going. I didn’t see it as a date, don’t see it as a date. I talked about my husband or whatever he is and he talked about his girlfriend, a.k.a. baby momma, a.k.a., sex maniac lover. Needless to say we had a blast that night. Had dinner, a few drinks, talked about fun times and ended the night listening to music at a bar. Now I can’t get the dude out of my mind!! Do you think he saw it as just a friend thing. He did hug me after our non-date, said it was great seeing me and hopes everything works out. We had a blast though, talked about old times, laughed A LOT. We are each others first everything, kiss, sex..all of the above. We tried each others drinks because “we’ve exchanged spit” tried each other food and all of that fun, date-like stuff. What do I do now?

    • PurpleCar 24 May 2009, 8:27 pm

      Hi Monkey Chick!

      Well, first let me say Congratulations on starting your new life. Divorce can be a beginning, too.

      I usually keep my advice to online etiquette and computing issues, as I’m not a counselor, but I felt compelled to answer you.

      I think you should treat this man as only a little more than a stranger. He’s involved with a woman who is about to have his child. You do *not* want to get in the middle of that. Honestly, the guy sounds like he is looking for any way out of the
      ridiculous yet serious situation his irresponsible behavior has gotten
      him into. Don’t give him that excuse.

      Ask yourself if it is really this man that you want or is it the comforting idea that you *do* have good taste in men. By getting back together with an ex, it’s as if you are proving to yourself that you had it right but just got off the path somehow. After divorce, that crushing sense of failure can put false hope in unhealthy places. Keep your FB and MySpace relations strictly to girlfriends and family for a while. Update daily so your friends can comment with their support.

      Find yourself a good counselor. Your insurance company will have counseling practices that they work with, or ask a friend for a suggestion. Do not make any major moves with anyone, especially not an ex, until you are absolutely sure you are doing the right thing. You aren’t a failure. You *will* find a man worthy of the person you’re growing into. Give yourself some time to grow into that older, wiser, more confident and more beautiful person.

      Come back in 9-12 months to let me know how it is going, OK? Good luck!



      • monkeychick 25 May 2009, 5:23 pm

        LOL. Thanks for the advice. Must have been a lonely evening thing because now I’m fine, not thinking of him and really wanted to smack myself in the head for even being curious about it. I don’t want to get involved with the whole “baby daddy” thing, not me!! LOL

        I’m pretty happy, ready to move this weekend and start my life over. Nothing wrong with having fun in the meantime!!

        Thanks again. 🙂

  • slappadabassmon 21 April 2010, 10:32 pm

    I loved this! I was in a similar situation, but when the drama kicked in, I blocked him. Theres no need to have your gf or whatever reply to a message I sent you from your account. Thats just ignorant.

    All aside, you confirmed that what I did was a good choice, and I thank you for that. 🙂

    • PurpleCar 21 April 2010, 10:38 pm

      Yeah, man, forGET that bull. The past is the past and somethings just don’t ever get worked out. Some “closure” isn’t necessary, ya know? And in trying to get “closure” all you get is a new opened can of worms.

      Good for you. He can save the drama for his mama!



      • slappadabassmon 21 April 2010, 11:09 pm

        Well I think it all depends on the length of the relationship and how it ended. We had a pretty badass relationship.

        all Iwas asking for was just some straight up answers

        At the same time, I dont want to know it was for stupid little things. He did say a while ago, “I was young and didnt know what I was doing,” blah blah blah, stringing me along this whole 3 years we are apart,calling every once in a while “oh i miss you”, all that crap, for whatever reason.

        Its been three years, hes 3000 miles away.I was like, dude, Im over it, I see your with another chick and im cool with that. What is your motive if your not going to talk to me? I see I was the first person you requested, and I see that your friends with so and so.

        I dont want to know about if hes married to this 31 year old crazy with 3 kids that arent his, why would I want to know these few answers I seek? I blocked his ass. One problem, I remain friends with his mom….

        • slappadabassmon 21 April 2010, 11:13 pm

          I should clarify, the message I got back from him was “well i have this really crazy ex gf and she would freak if we knew we were talkin, why u actin funny?”
          Then, I recently got a reply from a message i sent him, but she was clearly the one who was responding, because she said “him”

        • PurpleCar 21 April 2010, 11:15 pm

          Well, the mom friend thing may be a problem, but only if he sneaks his little nose up in her biznez. Otherwise, if it’s cool, then it’s cool. No worries.

          But yeah, I wish more women would learn that it’s OK to BLOCK PEOPLE. You don’t have to be “nice” all the time. Especially when some jerk is emotionally toying with you. You are a strong person to finally rid yourself of that nonsense. Teach others! It’s so important to have a “self-protection” skill in this digital age. Protect your profile, protect yourself.



          • slappadabassmon 21 April 2010, 11:23 pm

            Exactly! Mahalos!

  • MNMan 18 June 2010, 9:59 am

    Thanks for this. I was feeling kinda down about the way my girlfriend was acting lately– she’s been talking with her ex. I guess I just need to realize that girls who have had a long serious relationship need to have some kind of contact with that person. My girlfriend is very open and honest with me, so I should not feel threatened, but it still kinda tugs at my heart a little. You seem to be a very rational person who can realize the cultural rules of those interactions with the ex, so I can hope and trust that my girlfriend does too. I just guess that I didn’t (and to a certain extent still don’t) understand why she needs to talk to him or see him at all. I never talk to my exs unless I’m telling them to leave me alone. And my guy friends only talk to an ex when they wanna fuck. So naturally I can see the ex’s intentions only in that light. Do I think she knows that he is trying to get her back? Prolly not. And I don’t think I can tell her that he’s just trying to get in her pants either (unless I want a smack in the face). I really care about this girl and it’s still a fresh relationship, so your story makes me want to let this one ride itself out. I just hope she’ll cut him loose eventually

    • PurpleCar 18 June 2010, 10:44 am

      Hey Man.

      Well, yeah. Fresh relationships are tough. It’s hard to know how the other person really feels as much as you do for them. I have to say, when I was younger, I thought that I had to be nice to everyone. After all, it’s how we women are raised. But as I got older and I saw the truth in what my (now) husband was saying about men and how they think, I stopped chatting with any exes. It’s terrible to marginalize men in this way, but the fact is, the exes blew it and they had their chance. There are plenty of other men to talk to, ones I haven’t slept with or loved. Ya know?

      It’s possible that your girlfriend may feel obliged to be nice to this man. As a man, you probably can’t understand the overwhelming cultural pressure on women to “be liked” and to “be nice.” I just turned 40 this year and it’s taken me a decade to accept the fact that some people will ALWAYS think I’m a bitch, no matter what I do. Many women don’t even get to that stage.

      • MNMan 18 June 2010, 12:18 pm

        Do you think her going to his birthday party at a bar is kosher? She told me she was going and that I shouldn’t be concerned. I had work early so I wasn’t about to go, but it’s not like I was invited either. And she still hasn’t called or texted since she told me she was going last night…

        • PurpleCar 18 June 2010, 1:01 pm


          If it’s a new relationship, people don’t have to text or communicate daily. You’re just getting to know each other. Give it time. She may have wanted to see some old mutual friends. Don’t be too clingy or she’ll bolt for sure. Find some of your own hobbies and interests. If she sees that you aren’t hanging on her every text, it will go a long way. Get out there and do your own thing. Don’t worry so much about what a new girlfriend does. She doesn’t owe you any loyalty yet. You’re just getting started! Who knows, once you get out to do your own things, it may be YOU who is going out to see old friends without her.

  • Art 4 September 2011, 8:20 pm

    Wow you nailed it!  Thank you for sharing.  My ex be-friended me and we started the emails and the regrets and the tears and the bizarros,  after three years I’m still in hell.  What you did was amazing and right on.  I wish I read this back then.

    • PurpleCar 5 September 2011, 7:44 am

      I’m glad you found it helpful now, though. You are always allowed to cut off communications. You are allowed to lay boundaries. No-one (who is sane) will fault you for it.
      -Christine Cavalier

  • Jess 9 August 2015, 11:26 pm

    My ex (who I dated for 6 years while doing PhD studies then he dumped me last year) just sent me a LinkedIn invite. I don’t know what to do! I’ve been no contact for a year.
    I think he’s trying to be nice, and personally I don’t have many LinkedIn contacts myself (I barely use it, okay, actually I do not use it). I want to act nice but …hmm. maybe it went to junk mail?…LoL

  • Suzy 8 December 2015, 9:44 pm

    About 4 weeks ago I got the Facebook friend request from an ex. We had a bad breakup 7 years ago. I have done nothing with the request because I have been unsure what to do. My gut tells me not to accept because he was very mean and nasty when we broke up. Also I don’t really want to be friends with him at all. I moved on long ago and I am happily married today. I think I will stick with ignoring the request!

    • Christine Cavalier 28 December 2015, 5:04 pm

      Suzy, stick with your instincts! I’d go a step further and delete the request entirely. You are allowed to feel safe and spend time (online and off) with people who support and love you and make you feel great about your decisions in life. There’s really nothing more this person can offer you, so just screw him. Some wounds shouldn’t be forgotten.

Next post:

Previous post: