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Hi Captain!

I (they/them) am firmly in BEC* mode with someone in my friend group, and I’d like to figure out how to get out of it. 

(Captain’s Note: BEC is short for “Bitch Eating Crackers,” from a meme about how when someone annoys you, everything they do starts to annoy you, no matter how innocuous.)

The friend group in question is a Discord server of around a hundred people total, with a much smaller active user group. One of them, whom we’ll call R (she/her), went through a period a year or so ago where she seemingly just couldn’t pass up the chance, in the words of another friend, to be a real boot to me. Examples: One time she critiqued an apology I was giving while I was in the middle of giving it. One time, I admittedly misunderstood something she said and called her out for being rude and she jumped immediately to personal attacks (implying I’m a selfish monster, basically, for venting about something scary I’d seen in a rants channel), to the point where I had to get the mods involved to get her to back off, and other people were jumping in to defend me. One time I was spinning a story in a creative channel and she kept commenting to say she thought the idea was stupid. Throughout all of these I was checking in with other friends who confirmed that she was being unnecessarily hard on me. (I have autism and can’t always tell if what I’m feeling is fair or not.)

So anyway, I’m at the stage where everything she says makes me irritated, and every time I reveal anything personal I’m afraid she’s going to jump in and insult me. But she’s a semi-active member of the group, and other people like her, and I’d like not to be on edge every time she posts. Do you have any advice to stop seeing the cracker crumbs everywhere?


Trying To Tune Out The Chomping

Dear Trying To Tune Out The Chomping:

I like the image of Personality-Based Misophonia your letter is conjuring.

You asked how to climb out of the mode where everything R. posts irritates you. My theory is that you will like her slightly more when you interact with her much less, and one way to do that is to block or mute her within the Discord server.

What’s the worst thing that would happen if you did? You’d miss out on some snippets of group discussion here and there, but you could free yourself from seeing the vast majority of R’s posts. If she tried to say something mean to you, you’d be in your rights to shut it down directly, but this way you might not even see it. And if either R or your mutuals noticed your lack of response and cared enough to ask why, you could say, “R and I have never really meshed, I figured this way we could both hang out with the people we really like and leave each other in peace.” It sounds like R. has gone out of her way to be mean to you more than once and you have good reason to not like her. It also sounds like she’s done it publicly enough and regularly enough that it shouldn’t really surprise her – or anyone – if she’s not your favorite person. She’s never apologized to you for any of her behavior, from what I can see, so there’s no need for you to do a bunch of work on your own tolerance and capacity for forgiveness here.

Some people get really weird about the entire concept of blocking someone on a social platform, like it’s the worst thing you can do, or insist that a person has to be objectively awful or definitively cross a certain line and be tried by a jury of their peers before they “earn” a block, or else it’s “unfair.” I think that your affection, attention, and time do not have to be distributed “fairly” to everyone you meet, so if someone routinely sets your teeth on edge, if someone makes you dread encountering them in spaces you otherwise enjoy, especially if you find it hard to resist engaging even when you know it’s a bad idea, then blocking them is a kindness to yourself.

Geek Social Fallacy #1 and #4 carriers, especially, can get very concerned when people they like don’t get along with each other, and sometimes they take it upon themselves to make peace and try to force the people to come together and talk over their mutual antipathy. I vote for the path to peace where you talk to and about R. so much less than you currently do. If you were at an in-person social event, you might muster 10 seconds of routine “heyhowareya” and a nod of acknowledgement of R.’s shared humanity on your way to the jukebox for the sake of group harmony, but Discord gives you curation tools so you don’t even have to really do that. “She’s mean to me and I don’t really like her. There’s nothing to fix.” “I got tired of arguing with her about every little thing so I decided to stop.”  Be like digital ships in the night! Be free!

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