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Maintaining friendships through work termination, social media conflict

Are some of your Facebook updates upsetting to friends?
Are some of your Facebook updates upsetting to friends?
Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Every time Seleste logged onto Facebook, she couldn't help having her feelings hurt looking at her friend's Yvette cover photo. Across the top of her past co-worker/friend's Facebook page was a group photo of her previous co-workers before Seleste was terminated. And although Seleste was ready to part ways with the company, she still didn't like to face the realization that she'd been fired for the first time in her life.

And if not for still being Facebook friends with her co-worker/friend Yvette, Seleste would never be subjected to the everyday activities at her previous job. She wouldn't know about the company picnics, lunch time outings or surprise birthday gifts. She'd have no idea of who got a wedding proposal, who had a baby on the way and which previous co-worker just got a raise. When the two friends talked on instant messenger or Skype, Yvette gushed over work activities while Seleste bit her tongue.

But how could Seleste be selfish enough to ask her friend Yvette to stop posting status updates, photos and happily keeping her up to date on a job that Seleste claimed she didn't miss at all?

The issue between these two friends is rocky. The old adage "treat people the way you want to be treated" must work for both parties in order for this friendship to work. Here are tips to get past the bumpy issues when co-workers are no longer work buddies but still trying to stay friends.

Your life is not your friend's life.

It'd be awfully selfish of Seleste to ask Yvette to stop posting her everyday activities. Seleste was the one who was terminated, not Yvette. So why should Yvette avoid doing what she always does on Facebook -- share what's going on in her world? However, Yvette must also realize that the entire time she'd been posting all of these work events, Seleste was already working there. Now things have changed. It wouldn't hurt for Yvette to set Facebook statuses to custom settings and insert Seleste's name in the field box for "Don't share this with..."

Be honest with your friend.

If Seleste continues to not speak up about hurt feelings with Yvette, eventually she's going to take out all of her anger on the wrong person. The person who terminated Seleste is not Yvette so Yvette should not have to deal with her friend's wrath. However, by Yvette continuing to constantly remind Seleste about the job on a daily basis while Seleste continues in her job search, this is leading to unnecessary and hurtful reminders. The last thing someone searching for a job needs is another reminder that they don't have one, especially on social media usually used to escape their own issues.

Stop talking about work.

Yvette definitely should avoid talking about work unless Seleste brings it up. It is one thing to voluntarily leave a job. It is another to be forcibly removed, specifically if Seleste didn't agree to the terms or believe she deserved the termination. The bigger problem is that although Yvette may be deemed selfish for bringing up Seleste's previous job, if Seleste acts as though she's interested in the work scoop then how would Yvette know she's doing anything wrong? Now if Seleste repeatedly changes subjects, never comments on photos, doesn't acknowledge any social media updates about work-related information but is otherwise a regular social networking participant, Yvette may want to pay attention to this change in behavior. For new friends, it's a bit more difficult to figure out someone's behavior. But for older friends, something as simple as not clicking on "like" or a retweet can sound the alarm. Friends who know each other well pick up on what's being ignored behind a computer screen as much as they do in person.

Consider unfriending.

It may seem childish to pull the "I don't want to be your friend anymore" stunt or to unfollow someone, but this also may be the best way for Seleste to relax. Now Seleste can log onto social media sites without the constant stress of Yvette's posts, and Yvette doesn't have to worry about considering her friends' feelings for every single post.

Be mindful of conversations in real life.

Some people claim to be friends although 95 percent of their interaction is on social media sites, on cell phone texting or on instant messaging sites, such as Gmail Chat or Skype. But for friends who physically hang out, there must be a conversation where both parties lay their feelings on the table. Self-absorbed people will disregard the other person's feelings. True friends will take the other person's feelings into account and draw boundaries. As with any other hot-button topic, if they know a topic shouldn't be discussed or to treat it with care then they'll dodge it. And should the topic come up accidentally, a safe word or a change of subject should be the only thing needed to quickly dismiss conflict before it can start.

Holding on to any friendship can be a task. Other hot-button issues -- marriage, divorce, birth, breakups, physical changes, health problems -- could easily be replacement words for termination and the same rules apply. The key part of social media is to socialize, but sometimes participants need to pay more attention to their topics of communication.

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