Thanks to the Internet, we now have a host of new ways to offend, enrage, misinterpret, creep out, or alienate people. In the Tangled Web, we field your questions about how to be a decent human online. Have a question? Ask email@example.com.
A few months ago I was introduced to a woman who turned out to run a sex-oriented blog that is relevant to my interests. I said I would comment on her blog and we'd get in touch that way. I started reading, but for various reasons didn't feel like I had much to say at the time, so I never commented and we never got in touch.
Last week I went on a date with a guy who turns out to be dating this blogger. We have plans to go out again. I told him that I had met her, but didn't mention that I read her blog. This week, she posted something really interesting that I want to comment on. On top of the normal weirdness of having waited months to say hi, now I'm also kind of dating one of the guys she's sleeping with and maybe writing about.
Is there some kind of disclosure etiquette here? I don't know if he reads her blog and I don't know if they discuss the other people they date. Should I say something about that if I do comment? If so, to whom? Possibly more importantly, do I need to make a point to tell him I read her blog? 'Hi, good to meet you, BTW the internet told me what you like in the sack' seemed unnecessary for a first date, and I sort of imagined it would come up naturally in the future, but it seems like it might be awkward for him to find out by seeing my comments online before we go out a second time.
You should definitely say something to one of the parties, because there’s a lot of risk of misinterpretation if you just leave a comment and cross your fingers. I can see little thought bubbles over their heads: “Oh, so she doesn’t get in touch for months, and now that she wants to sleep with one of my boyfriends suddenly she has something to say?” “Ugh, now she’s looking up my girlfriend’s blog? What a creep.” It’s also entirely possible that they wouldn’t care, or that they’d interpret it as positive and flattering interest, but it’s really easy for this to look weirder than it is. (I mean, it’s also a little weird, I guess, in the sense that it is not strictly a problem Emily Post might have addressed? But let’s all charge enthusiastically into the modern age.)
Anyway, do say something before you leave a comment—specifically, say something to the fella, because he’s in an inherently more vulnerable position here. She knows that you have all the necessary information to find out about her sex life online, because she put it there on purpose and told you how to find it. He, on the other hand, doesn’t have total control over what she writes about him (if she writes about him), and he doesn’t know that you read it. Though presumably he’s aware that you could.
You don’t have to make this sound like a confession or anything, because it’s not a big deal! Just say something like, “Hey, I was reading Margaery’s blog and I thought the latest post was really interesting, blah blah conversation starter.” (I’m assuming the blogger in question is Joffrey’s fiancee from Game of Thrones, please correct me if this is wrong.) That casual introduction allows two useful followups: a) a semi-joking “Ha ha, the dude in that post wasn’t you, was it?” that will let him volunteer whether he appears on the blog, if he’s so inclined; and b) an offhanded “Yeah, I was thinking about leaving a comment, I’ve been meaning to get in touch with her after that party and I check in on the blog occasionally but hadn’t gotten around to commenting,” which simultaneously explains why you’re reading her blog and why you’ve been silent so far. Plus, it allows you two to have an interesting conversation about sex, which is a great second-date activity!
Jess Zimmerman has been making social blunders on the Internet since 1994. Most of her current interpersonal drama takes place on Twitter (@j_zimms).
Illustration by Jason Reed