ADVICE 07: My Partner Is Stealing People's Status Updates


Photo Credit: Brent Stoller

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One of writing's most challenging tasks is coming up with new ideas to write about. I've never covered the news, and I've never focused on a single subject matter, like politics or sports. Instead, I've relied on my own life -- my thoughts, experiences and struggles -- for material. And my life can be pretty boring.

Thankfully, when it comes to this advice column, that burden is no longer on me. In this space, it's all about your questions.

Of course, it's then up to me to answer them, and that can be equally as challenging. For the majority of submissions, the core issue -- like dealing with a broken heart or not having enough casual sex -- has been something with which I can identify. I've either experienced it myself or know someone who did. That gives me a huge head start on providing an original and, hopefully, helpful perspective.

But there are other times when things aren't quite as clear. There are times when all a submitted question does is raise a new one: Where do I even begin?

That can feel crippling, because as the self-proclaimed advice columnist, I'm supposed to have something to offer. But it can also be exciting, because it requires me to get creative, to consider new possibilities and expand my line of thinking. If I can do that, all I can then hope is that my answer lands in the same zip code as the target.

Today, I address one of these questions...

I recently found out my partner's social media statuses are mostly copied and pasted from other sites, even reviews. They're changed just enough to make them look personal. What do you think this indicates, and what should I do?
-- Duckinpar; Chicago, IL

I apologize if I'm wrong, but for simplicity's sake, I'm going to refer to your partner as if he's male.

The more I thought about this question, the more I thought back to the movie Can't Buy Me Love. Bear with me.

Before he was Dr. Derek Shepherd on Grey's Anatomy, Patrick Dempsey was Ronald Miller, a geeky, straight-A student who wanted nothing more than to be popular. When he wasn't sipping a root beer at a Saturday night card game, he was taking abuse from his younger brother, Seth Green.

In an effort to elevate his social status, Ronald concocted the following plan: Pay the most beautiful girl in school, Cindy Mancini (R.I.P.), $1,000 to be his girlfriend. His goal was to become popular by association -- if Cindy deemed him cool enough to date, everyone else would deem him cool.

He was right. Before long, Ronald had new friends, new girlfriends and had inspired a new dance fad. He became one of the cool kids by pretending to be one of them. He swapped his horn-rimmed glasses for Ray-Bans and his A&W for Miller Lite. He even desecrated his best friend's house as part of the jocks' Halloween prank. By taking on somebody else's persona, he not only got to feel like somebody else, he got a break from being himself.

In a way, that's what I think is going on with your partner. I think your partner is unsatisfied with his current state of affairs, and this is his way of putting on a happy face. He's plagiarizing other people's lives in hopes of masking the deficiencies of his own.

Social media is the perfect venue for this. It gives us complete autonomy to create a snapshot of who we (want people to think we) are. We get to post the pictures that hide our double-chin; the articles that showcase our intellect and ideals; the status updates that highlight our humor. The world only sees what we want it to see.

But just like Ronald Miller, this strategy has a shelf life. Eventually, we have to step out from behind the facade and face what's really going on, because it's the only way for it to get better.

And that's where you come in. I believe the best thing you can do is put this issue on the table and help your partner work through it.

The truth is that we don't know his motivations. Every comparison I just made to Patrick Dempsey could be comically off base. So I'd approach your partner with a curious, inquisitive demeanor. No judging, no accusing. Just ask him questions. Hey, I noticed this pattern... is this something you're aware of? If so, what's going on here? Is there anything I can do?

At the very least, your partner's likely to be embarrassed by such a conversation, so it's important that he feels safe participating in it. Make it clear you're there to help him, and he'll be more inclined to let you.

COMING FRIDAY: My husband is an alcoholic...

Need more ADVICE? Check out the most recent installments:

ADVICE 06: Is My Fiancee Getting Cold Feet?

ADVICE 05: Should I Tell My Ex I Want Him Back?

ADVICE 04: Casual Sex; How to Confront Someone

ADVICE 03: Should I Contact My Ex?; Mourning Etiquette

ADVICE 02: How to Stop Comparing Yourself to Others

ADVICE 01: Autism and Religion; Should I Stay Married for my Child's Sake?

To send in a question, please complete this short Google form. All submissions are anonymous, even to the author.