I don’t have many house guests; I like my privacy. Recently an old high school friend came to visit for a couple of days. When I got up the next morning, she mentioned another mutual friend was surprised that I was so far along in my new apartment. I asked how she knew that. Did she take pictures and send them to her? I wasn’t included in the text—and I felt I was being talked about behind my back by not being a part of the conversation. I felt like this was bad manners or etiquette. If I was included, I would have seen the pictures and heard the conversation back and forth.
What are your thoughts/feedback?
Dear Left Out,
I imagine your friend appreciated you hosting her — especially as someone who doesn’t like to have guests over often! And for what it’s worth, it sounds like she thought your space was really nice.
I think there are two issues at play, so let’s tease them out separately. For starters, it can feel uncomfortable to have photos of your private space shared without your consent — especially on social media, but even between friends. This goes double time if you aren’t one to post regular updates of your decorating process on Instagram. Home is inherently a private domain — I don’t think there’s anything unreasonable about politely asking friends to keep it that way.
If this is the part of my advice that’s really striking a chord, next time, in the moment, you might want to say something simple like: “I prefer not to share photos of my space publicly.” If it’s truly eating you, you could bring it up with your friend after the fact, but at this point there’s not much she can do (the mutual friend can’t unsee the photos). If you decide it’s still worth it, I’d suggest something like, “I keep thinking about that photo you sent to Nancy. I’m sure she won’t share it with anyone else, but I’m such a private person about my home, and just wanted to let you know I prefer not to send out photos of my space.”
But Left Out, what I’m really reading from your letter is that you didn’t like that you weren’t part of the conversation—not that it happened in the first place. This is natural — it doesn’t feel good to imagine being talked about by two other people, even if they’re friends. I’m going to make a radical suggestion though: what if you’re friend was just really impressed by your apartment? Maybe she was already texting with this other friend (or maybe she wasn’t), and she wanted to share her excitement and admiration. It seems like she appreciated your hospitality, and I don’t have any evidence to suggest that she would have been gossiping about you. Sometimes when our brains don’t have the whole story, we rush to fill in the gaps with our own insecurities. In this case, try rewriting the story to tell yourself a more positive one.
In the end, you can’t demand that your two friends include you in their correspondence (and your houseguest didn’t even have to tell you about the text — another clue, to me, that it wasn’t nefarious). You can say that you miss this third mutual friend, and start your own separate group text. You could suggest the three of you get together. Heck, you could send her your own photos of your place and ask what she thinks yourself!
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Letters have been lightly edited for clarity and length.