How to Handle Awkward Situations on Social Media

How to Handle Awkward Situations on Social Media

Have you ever been in an awkward situation on a social media site? Perhaps you were the one posted something you later felt awkward about.

Or perhaps someone else did something that seemed awkward to you. However, you didn’t know how to let them know so they hopefully wouldn’t make the same mistake again.

With Mother’s Day fresh in our minds, I got to thinking about this topic. Often our mothers (or others in their generation) want to communicate with us on a social site.

Yet, not having grown up using social media, they can be prone to doing things that seem inappropriate.

What to do?!

This post focuses on Facebook, because it’s the social site used by the most people of diverse ages and experience levels. Also, I am gearing my remarks to anyone with a relative or friend in their late 50s or older. In general, these are the folks who are most prone to being awkward on social media.


Provide Friendly Guidance to Those Older than You

  • Make your parent and/or other elder a Close Friend on Facebook. Doing that will notify you whenever they post – if you adjust your notifications to do that.
  • Walk them through the privacy settings and timeline/tagging settings for their account. Help them adjust these to fit their needs.
  • Check their posts periodically for references that are too personal or otherwise inappropriate.
  • Check the comments they make on posts you share for the same reason.
  • Call or email them when you find something inappropriate. Explain, gently, what the issues were with the post and/or comment. Don’t just text them about this – call if you can, email if you must.
  • Be specific – have the comment and the context at hand. Then you can refer to it and make suggestions that are relevant.
  • Sometimes these folks tag you (mentioning you so their post shows on your timeline) in ways you find inappropriate. If this happens, use the same technique to educate them about appropriate tagging.
  • Delete posts and comments and remove their tags if necessary. They are not notified by Facebook when you do this. It’s your decision whether tell them.
  • If they don’t seem to be “getting it”, you might need to tell them – please don’t post on your timeline. You might also ask them not to comment on your posts, or tag you in theirs. Whatever needs to be done, try to do it as gently as possible.


More Tips for Communicating on Facebook

  • Explain to these folks that all your Facebook friends see a post they put on your timeline. The same applies to the times when they tag you by name or via a photo you are in.
  • Point out to them that you have a wide variety of people as Facebook friends.  Ask them to consider whether they’d tell a “mere acquaintance” whatever they are about to post on Facebook. It’s easier for them to imagine whether they would tell someone they don’t know well something and develop their own internal scale of whether to post or not.
  • Show them how to reply to just one person and not to the poster of a message or everyone connected to it.
  • Explain that they can send you a private message on Facebook. Remind them that you welcome their phone calls, emails, and/or texts, especially regarding personal matters.


How About You?

What experience have you had with awkward situations on Facebook or other social media sites? What approaches have you tried? What has worked? What has failed? If something failed, what might you do differently in a similar situation?


About Joyce

Joyce Feustel helps people, especially those ages 45 and older, to become more comfortable using social media, especially Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Twitter.

She works with business owners, business development professionals, leaders of nonprofit organizations, job seekers, consultants, and many others. Find her at




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