Every week, Dear Prudence answers additional questions from readers, just for Slate Plus members.
Q. Friend’s son: I just found out that my very close friend’s 18-year-old son has a fake Snapchat account to sell drugs. My friend is very private and would not only be devastated that her son has been lying and engaging in criminal behavior but also humiliated that people are talking about this. I feel like sending an anonymous letter because a) I’m chicken, b) I want to preserve our friendship, and c) she won’t be as humiliated. Is this a good idea?
A: I have to say, it doesn’t sound like a good idea when I say it out loud: “I sent my friend an anonymous letter to let her know her 18-year-old sells drugs on Snapchat.” It sounds unnecessarily clandestine, avoidant, and messy; plus, if she doesn’t like being talked about, she’s definitely not going to like wondering which one of her friends or acquaintances or colleagues sent the letter. If you think there’s a substantial, immediate threat to your friend’s safety, tell her straightforwardly. If you don’t think there is one, or if you’re not certain that it’s him, wait and reflect before making a decision. I’m not quite sure what you mean when you call the Snapchat account “fake”—is he just pretending to sell drugs? Do you mean it’s anonymous, or that he uses a different name? Is he still living at home with your very close friend, and is he publishing their address or otherwise obviously putting her at risk? Do you know her son personally, and if so, have you considered letting him know directly that he’s not covering his tracks very well? Generally, you should consider anonymous letters to be measures of absolute last resort; I don’t think you’re at that stage right now.