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By Trisha Prabhu

Trish, my friend keeps posting pics of us on her Insta, and I look so bad in all of them. I once asked her to check with me first but she keeps forgetting and I don’t want to ask over and over. What do I do?

Hi there, and thanks so much for the super #relatable and important question! First and foremost, let me validate what you’re experiencing as well as your frustration. Trust me, you’re not the only one that’s been here…whether it’s friends or even parents, we’ve all (me included!) had folks in our life ignore our digital boundaries or unintentionally made us feel bad online. And the situation is tricky, because in this case, the violator doesn’t have an evil agenda – they’re often just forgetful or super gung-ho on social media. They may even think you’re wrong, and that you look great in that picture! But while you appreciate the kind words, you don’t appreciate that they don’t respect you and your wishes.

Let’s be clear: you absolutely have a right to set your own digital boundaries and have the folks in your life respect them. Even if the post with the “bad picture” was unintended, it’s not okay that your friend forgot to check in. Even if we do spend so much of your time online, it’s not a given or implicit that you’re okay with any picture you take with a friend being posted on social media. So…to get to your question, what do you do? Luckily, I have a couple of brief, super easy tips that you can use to avoid these types of situations. (They can also be helpful for folks that act unintentionally online – like your friend! – to review.)

Tip #1: Be super explicit and open about your digital boundaries. While it might feel a little embarrassing or pushy to “ask over and over,” you can and absolutely should feel empowered to explain what you are and are not comfortable with online. If it’s taking photos with a friend, try to mention it upfront – “I’m pretty social media shy, so if you can check in with me before you post anything, that would be great” – and later on (maybe via text, or in subsequent conversations). You can even frame it as “wanting to provide input” or helping your friend “get the best Insta shot.” If your friend insists on a certain photo, explain why you’re not comfortable with it, and affirm that even if your friend disagrees with your reasoning, they still have to respect how you feel. If your friend continues to dodge your requests, it’s worth asking: are they really your friend? Friends respect other friends.

Tip #2: Think carefully about what your digital boundaries are. We all have these boundaries, but sometimes we don’t think super intentionally about what they are – which can make it harder to articulate them to others. In this case, we’re talking about how one looks in a photo; some folks, though, may prefer not to have any photos of themselves up on social media, or not be tagged in any photos, or not appear on certain social media platforms (even if they’re okay with others). Take some time to honestly reflect on what, specifically, you are and are not okay with online. And if there are any actions you yourself can take to set some digital boundaries, get on them! You could, for instance, limit comments on your Instagram posts or require that you have to review and approve any Facebook post that tags you. (These are actions you can easily do via each social media app’s “Settings.”) You may also want to think about how you might explain those digital boundaries and why they matter to you to friends and family – so that when the time comes, you’re ready!

Tip #3: Lead by example. Over time, I’ve found that the most effective way to get folks to respect my digital boundaries is to actively and intentionally respect theirs – even if they haven’t asked. I can’t tell you how many times after I’ve asked a friend, “Hey! Can I post this photo of us on social media?” that I’ve heard from them later on, asking the same question when they want to share a post. Hold yourself to the same standard you want to hold others to, and folks will respond. This goes beyond just “asking before you post”; you can also (as discussed above!) proactively set digital boundaries – a great way to subtly nudge your friends to do the same! – and intervene when you see your friends inadvertently overstepping boundaries. There’s no need to be mean or confrontational; just say something like: “Hey! Do you want to check with Sarah before you post that? I know red isn’t her favorite color…” Boom! You’ve made things better for Sarah…and, hopefully down the line, you.

I hope you found this post enlightening and hopefully useful! Whether you use these tips to tackle your friend’s unintended consequences or your own, let me know how it goes in the comments. Speaking of hearing from you, one last thing before we part…whether you’re an Ask Trish regular (love y’all!), or you just recently found and started reading these posts (love y’all too!), I want to invite and encourage you to share any of your questions or reflections about the Internet with me here. Your topic just might be featured in next week’s TikTok/blog post! And it’s not just you that’ll benefit: any time you share a question, our entire community gets to learn along with you – and so many readers are exposed to new and important topics. So take just 30 seconds and fill out the form! (It’s legit so easy.) I can’t wait to hear from you – and hopefully share some helpful tips with you.

Until next Tuesday,


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