008 Being Public: Dealing with Acquaintances and Social Media
Lean into the awkward
Acquaintances: those folks who aren’t part of your circle of close friends and family, but are still a part of your life in one way or another. By their very nature, these relationships don’t often have a deep foundation which can make it difficult to share deeply personal feelings and experiences. However, chances are that at some point you’ll want to be more public about your departure from Mormonism–which means dealing with acquaintances one way or another. Are you ready for it?
In previous episodes, our panelists shared their stories and experiences in telling close friends and family about their decision to leave Mormonism. In this episode Chloe, Micaela, and Donna talk about their experiences going public with acquaintances and on social media. Listen in to find out where they are in the process, how they feel about it, and what has worked (or not) for each of them.
An acquaintance can be anyone who isn’t a part of your close circle of relationships–from an old friend with whom you’ve fallen out of touch to your high school band director, to a co-worker or neighbor and everything in between.
The nature of these relationships can be quite varied. Sometimes they will be people you’ve drifted away from but still deeply care about, some you may interact with on a daily basis but don’t know well, and some may be only the most casual of acquaintances. These different types of relationships will likely lend themselves to different approaches when considering how (or if) to talk with them about your departure from Mormonism.
Telling acquaintances can be either reactive or proactive. You may run into an old youth leader you haven’t seen in ten years and find yourself having to respond and react to a question about your current ward or calling. Or you may choose to be proactive and let people know where you are before they ask. Being prepared for either situation is key.
The emotional considerations can be similar to those you face when telling close friends and family, although the stakes are generally lower. Feelings such as the fear of rejection and loss of community are still present, as is the desire to be understood and live authentically.
Social media has enormously shifted the landscape when it comes to communication with more casual acquaintances. 15 years ago, you would likely lose track of former classmates, coworkers, neighbors, and ward members if you were not close to them. Now social media keeps us connected for longer periods of time, and whole groups of people who may never have known about your decision to leave Mormonism can see details of your life online.
Be prepared with “one-liners,” phrases intended to answer questions succinctly and move the conversation along. Having a few of these in your back pocket can help you feel less uncomfortable when caught off-guard with a question that feels too personal. Some of the phrases our panelists have used:
I’m not doing the church thing right now.
I’m taking a break right now.
Mormonism doesn’t work for me anymore.
Mormonism isn’t a good spiritual fit for me now.
I needed to step away from church.
I’m glad that faith/belief/church is meaningful to you. It didn’t work out for me and I needed to move on/walk away.
When telling acquaintances in person, be prepared for potential awkwardness. People may not alway know how to respond in the moment, so try to give them grace if they don’t bring their best selves to the conversation.
Social media can be especially tricky. It’s common to feel the need to curate your public posts until you feel ready to be more open. Some people decide to drop hints with their social media posts and allow others to “read between the lines.” And for others, social media can be a useful tool for explicitly and efficiently sharing your decision to leave the church.
When posting about major life changes on social media, consider the following wise advice from an article on fatherly.com (link below in Resources): be succinct, positive, and respectful; be clear about the finality of the situation; avoid blame and bitterness.
What are your priorities? Whether you want to live more authentically, control your narrative, or if you value privacy–understanding what is most important to you will likely make you much happier with how you choose to handle dealing with social media and acquaintances.
Becoming Wardless: Launching soon!
Becoming Wardless is a new series for people to tell their story about leaving Mormonism. Each episode will focus on one person, with the idea that that person can share it with family, friends, online. Check out our feed for the promo and to learn about how you can sign up to share your story!
Call for Audience Participation
We are looking for a couple of listeners who would be willing to beta test being part of our episode preparation process. It involves answering a few questions about your experience with a given topic, usually with a week to turn it around. Our goal is to try to bring some additional perspectives into the discussion. Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org if you’re interested.
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