Yes you you know who you are. Because you and your friends have this strange passive aggressive way of communicating with each other in public.

Rather than have a private direct conversation you like to send each other little cryptic statements via your Facebook statuses.

The fact that both of you have several hundred friends who might read these comments doesn’t deter you from playing it all out in public, with updates which can mean only one thing to one person – and generally thoroughly confuse everybody else.

Why do you do it? Perhaps you want to send the message loud and clear to a particular “frenemy” and you’re afraid to confront them face-to-face, you simply don’t feel assertive enough. Maybe there are others in your mutual circles who know exactly who is involved and what’s going on, and will be impressed by your oh-so-subtle remarks. “Nice one! That’ll teach her then!”

But it isn’t very nice is it, for everyone else?

perfectly passive aggressivePeople who read your status and have no idea what’s going on. Your insecure and anxious friend – we’ve all got at least one – who thinks you mean them when you don’t. People who really care and worry about you, and now have something new to fret over – only they don’t really know what to worry about, because all they have to go on is one strange wounded-sounding remark, so perhaps they’ll read their own stuff into it and be more concerned than they need to be…

It is so tempting to make passive aggressive posts, particularly when you’re upset and angry. I’ve done it myself – I know she will see this on Facebook, this is the perfect way to let know that I know, even if she knows that I know already – that’ll teach them. When someone has made you really mad you just want to lash back out at them, and you don’t really care in that first heat of the moment about collateral damage – who else might be upset.

I am a parent, and few things invoke my righteous red-mist more effectively than somebody behaving in a hurtful way towards my children. So I once wrote a status aimed at somebody I was about to unfriend to let them know why, to let them know that I thought anybody telling lies about anyone’s children was disgraceful behaviour from a so-called adult, and how proud I was in contrast of my daughters maturity regarding the whole incident.

I had already spoken to the person directly about it privately and was certain of my facts, but perhaps I regretted having chosen not to make a public scene and expose her more widely – well aware that public slagging-matches were really not my style as a distinctly non-confrontational person. A big part of me obviously really wanted to call her out in public though, and I guess Facebook tempted me for this reason.

The result? I have no idea whether the nasty gossip concerned even read it. I do know lots of other people read it and were confused by it. Some started speculating, stirring up trouble – because that’s what they do: “well, if it’s not a, then I bet it’s b, and I never liked her!” Those who love to weigh in rattling pitchforks couldn’t resist, and my friends list got a well-needed pruning as a result, but it wasn’t pretty.

But others including friends and relatives emotionally close to me but at a physical distance were disturbed and upset. Because I hadn’t thought to share this with them privately first, (sticks and stones, and people they would never meet) they were very concerned and wondered what on earth happened. I found myself apologising and also downplaying the incident itself – which ran contrary to my instinct and anger, but seems the only way to reassure people at the time.

Eventually I deleted the entire status. All I had managed to do was upset people and make myself look like an idiot. Then I found myself having to explain why it had disappeared, and links from alerts weren’t working… Arghh, would it ever die? It wasn’t as though the perpetrator was going to suddenly see the error of her ways and apologise or become a nicer person either. And I had reduced myself to the nastiest kind of keyboard-warrior troll, hiding behind the online world to say things that I wasn’t assertive enough to say publicly in front of real people.

I am a writer, and when I want to lash out my tendency is still to do it with words. But I have learned that the passive aggressive Facebook update written in the heat of the moment is often not the best way to do it.

Much better to let some time go by, whilst you calm right down. Express yourself in a more considered way, for example by writing a long article about it a couple of years later…

Next week will look at another kind of typical Facebook status that really irritates me, and don’t forget that all articles are archived at to read anytime

Costa Connected, for Costa Blanca News, August 1st 2014

©Maya Middlemiss, Casslar Consulting SL

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