Dear Prudence

My Friend Keeps Editing Her Social Media Photos to Make Me Look Heavier

Prudie’s column for July 27.

A woman smiling, extending her arm to take a selfie, while her friend stands beside her, looking frustrated.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by Getty Images Plus.

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Dear Prudence,
I have three close friends I’ve known since high school. Two of them love social media, and whenever we are together, they take pictures to post online. I don’t really like social media and only have one account, which I rarely check. When I was having lunch with one of my friends, she told me that “Sally” had been editing the photos she posted to make me look heavier and showed me the “before” she had on her phone and the “after” Sally had posted. There was a noticeable difference. I find this behavior really odd, and I’m not sure how to address it with Sally, since I never imagined this would be a situation I would have to bring up with a friend. I want to ask her why she’s doing this and also to stop. But if they’re her photos, I can’t really control what she does with them. Should I decline to be in any photos she takes? It makes me uncomfortable that she’s publicly changing my body.
—Photoshopping Friend

You have every right to not be in pictures with her if you don’t feel comfortable. You also have a right to ask her questions about what you’ve seen, even if you never anticipated having to ask a friend, “Hey, it looks like you’ve been photoshopping me to look bigger whenever we take pictures together—what’s that about?” I don’t know if this is something she does to everyone or just you, or if she goes beyond merely editing your appearance and writes comments about it, but now’s definitely the time to start asking questions. You might also want to look through some of the other pictures she’s posted so you can get a sense of whether you think there’s a significant difference between what you look like and how the pictures turn out most of the time. The oddness is not yours to explain, and you don’t need to feel responsible for it. It would be wise to approach this conversation with an open mind, but that doesn’t mean you have to rush to come up with a reason why this is all actually fine or protect Sally from an uncomfortable moment. Ask, listen, and then decide whether you want to keep taking pictures together.

Dear Prudence,
I have just started a job in a brand-new office and been approached by three different co-workers begging me to fund their kids’ church-approved vacation—i.e., a mission trip. Seriously, it was the third day. All these ladies barely know my name, and I make half of what they do, but they feel free to come up and try to hustle me for money. I said no, but apparently I didn’t grovel enough because I got told by a friend there are rumors going around about me being “rude.” How do I handle this? It has been a big cultural shift from my big-city background to Southern suburbia. I thought it was hard enough getting a driver’s license, but how do I politely appease these ladies without losing my mind or my wallet? My friend told me this happens a lot.
—Begging at Work

You now know both from your friend’s description and your own experience turning down three separate requests your first week on the job that sponsoring mission trips for one another’s children is a pretty significant part of your office culture. That doesn’t mean that the only way to get along with your co-workers is to contribute financially to their kids’ desire to proselytize and travel at the same time, but it does mean that you should be careful about how and when you push back. Right now all you’ve got is a single person telling you that there are rumors about your rudeness. I’d say unless this starts affecting your ability to perform your job, that’s not something you need to worry about. (If that does happen, you should talk to your supervisor and ask for help.) Be friendly and polite to everyone in the office. If you get the opportunity to offer an especially warm hello to someone whose request for money you declined, that’d be a nice gesture. But I don’t think you need to go out of your way to solicit their good opinion or to signal, even indirectly, that you’re open to being approached again with a request for donation. There’s nothing wrong with having a distantly civil relationship with a co-worker, especially when the alternative is getting asked for money you can scarcely afford to support teenage missionaries you don’t know.

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