Make It Stop: “My Sister Totally Ignores Me On Social Media”

Unlike last week’s question, my older sister doesn’t interact with any of my posts on social media. Not one “like”, favorite or comment from her on any of my posts or status updates in years. Just toss me a like! Is that so hard? It hurts my feelings, especially since she posts on her accounts, so I know she’s using social media. Part of me feels like it’s only Facebook and Instagram, it’s not real life, so I shouldn’t take it so seriously. But it still stings that she doesn’t engage with me on these platforms. For the record, I don’t post anything controversial, political, or offensive. I post normal stuff, like pics of cool street art, pics of cranberry orange scones I made, and pics of my dog, Tessa, looking cute. Should I say something to her?

Part of the dark magic of social media is that since it’s so new, it’s a lawless realm. There’s no standard for what interactions mean, which is what causes so much confusion. What does it mean when people engage with your page? What does it mean when they don’t?

The short, frustrating answer: it depends.

And, I understand that cumulatively, her across-the-board silence is hurtful. It’s not that she’s withholding her input from one pic, but she’s keeping mum on your entire social media milieu. I’m sure it feels like some Queen Elsa-level of frostiness.

It could be a decision she’s consciously making. Maybe she’s jealous or irritated by these happy moments you share. If that’s the case, she might be trying to protect her sense of equilibrium by skipping over your #blessed updates.

Or, taken another way, maybe, as your sister, she respects your social space and doesn’t want to plaster herself all over your posts at the risk of annoying you. Through that lens, she could think she’s doing you a favor by showing restraint.

It can be both or neither or something you haven’t even considered. Maybe her silence is due to a wonky algorithm, where your posts aren’t consistently showing up in her newsfeed. Maybe she posts stuff but doesn’t spend a lot of time surfing. Maybe she’s taking a break engaging on social media and hasn’t mentioned it to you. Who knows?

Depending on your relationship, you could bring it up to her next time you’re together and you sense that she’s in a jovial mood. After a few glasses of Pinot Grigio, say, “What do I have to do for you to give me some of your sweet, sweet digital approval? Bi-weekly foot rubs? A signed autograph from Mario Lopez? A handwritten poem rendered in iambic pentameter? Can it be a straight cash transaction? $20 a “like”? $50 a “favorite”? What’s your price, woman!” See what she says then drop the issue forever.

Ultimately, you’re right, social media isn’t real life. So how is her behavior off-line? Does she call you? Do you text or get together regularly? Because those are the memories you’ll cherish. The jokes you share, the physical time you spend together. I promise you won’t remember in five years time whether she wrote, “Beautiful!” under a random pic you snapped of your snow-lined street. Those digital ephemera are a trap, a hollow memory. Unless you baked the cranberry orange scones with her or made her chamomile tea as she cuddled with Tessa, having her write a word underneath a picture or thought you had doesn’t amount to much in the end. But you will remember that time you grabbed big salads at the mall then gave yourself tummy aches when you jammed on Butterfinger blizzards from Dairy Queen afterward.

Whether you decide to confront her or not, take the energy you’re spending on fretting about this issue and put it into being the best sister you can be. Create meaningful memories with her. In the long run, if you’re looking to connect, that’s truly the best way to do it.

Make It Stop is a weekly column in which Anna Goldfarb — author of “Clearly, I Didn’t Think This Through” and the blogger behind the blog, Shmitten Kitten — tells you what’s up. Want a fresh take on a stinky dilemma? Email [email protected] with the subject “Make It Stop.” She’ll make it all better, or at least make you laugh. Girl Scout’s honor.