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In 2016 I went to a comic con with a group of online friends, of which a couple of streamers with a decent sized community. F is in this community but nobody really speaks to him outside from what he says in stream chats and from what I know, nobody is really friends with him. He seems like a lonely individual but has very little friends as he often says weird things in chat.

The community was invited to meet up at the comic con and so was he. Me and the group met him there and he was awkward, to say the least. He has a habit of getting someones attention by grabbing someone by the upper arm (so firmly it hurts) and then talking very close to your face. He seems to do so more with girls, but maybe the guys were just quicker to push him off. He makes weird, sometimes racist comments. He commented on girl's boobs and how they were 'too fat' etc. He seems to have little to no understanding of how to behave in a social situation or what (not) to say. One of the girls wasn't feeling well due to low blood sugar and asked me to take her to the bathroom. F joined even though we said he shouldn't and made his way into the womens bathroom and it took us and 2 other ladies yelling at him before he would leave.

Fast forward to now, he somehow got my number from someone (we haven't talked anywhere outside the stream chat for 2 years) and invited me to join him and (so he said) S and M to a con at the end of the year. I barely speak S and M but we get along very well when we do. I asked S if she heard about it and she had only casually answered during a public stream that 'she'd think about it'.

He tried to get me to create a group chat in whatsapp, I think because he doesn't have phone numbers of S and M.

S, M and I agreed that it would be cool to go to the con and catch up, but we really have no interest in going with F. We're scared that if we go, he'll find out and meet up with us anyway.

How do we tell him we'd rather go alone, considering he has a difficult character? Or would, in dealing with someone who seems to have trouble accepting no, ignoring completely be the best solution?

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I'm assuming that you would prefer not to tell F that you don't enjoy his company and so would not like to attend in a group with him, so I won't detail that strategy much (other than to note that it exists).

Option 1: A polite excuse

I've had scheduling difficulties relating to events (both as the person with the scheduling problem and as a person wanting to go with someone that has a scheduling problem) which make it essentially impossible to plan to go with a group. Something like "I'd like to go, but I have [X] going on that day and so I'm not sure when I'll be able to get there" means that anyone making plans to go should do so without counting on you to be there, and still allows you to attend (at any time!). [X] doesn't even have to be much defined.

People are generally familiar with busy schedules, and so I've not seen much pushback on comments like this unless someone has given a very specific reason for the scheduling difficulty which is clearly untrue. And unless you, S, and M have a group costume sort of thing planned it will be very difficult for F to call you out.

Option 2: A closed group

If you've "already" made plans to go with a group (already in quotes because the timing isn't so critical when you're trying to dodge an invitation) there may not be space for F to join you. A comic convention may make this easier than it would be in other situations, especially if there is a group costume theme with all roles taken. This may not be an option for S given that he or she has already made a response in a public forum.

Option 3: Ghosting

Edit: For those unfamiliar with the term, ghosting someone is when you, without providing warning or explanation, stop contacting that person and do not respond to communications from that person.

I, personally, tend to think poorly of ghosting and those that do it. But I have enough younger friends who feel very differently to suggest that I may not be in-touch with that section of modern etiquette. And, loathe as I am to reach this conclusion in specific situations, in some cases it may actually be the best option (such as a case where someone won't stop bothering you, even if you've explicitly requested that they do so). But even if F is in that category there are still a lot of cases where ghosting could leave him cruelly hurt and confused. I don't know F and can't assess whether or not he would feel this way, nor whether or not he "deserves" to.

Nonetheless, failing to respond to him at all will let you attend the convention without explicitly rejecting his invitation.

Option 4: Honesty

I'm sorry, F, but we went together before and I didn't have a great time. I'd rather not.

It may sound harsh, but it is true, clear, and direct. I would definitely recommend this rather than ghosting because I feel it is a poor choice for a person to choose to avoid the inconvenience of saying this to F at the potential cost of lots of confusion and pain on F's part. But you know yourself, F, and the situation far better than I do. And, as above, I may just be out of touch with how ghosting is perceived these days.

  • Re ghosting: Another point to consider is safety: no matter whether F "deserves" to be ghosted - if OP expects him to react to honesty in an aggressive / violent / threatening way, ghosting may be the safer option. – AllTheKingsHorses Jun 28 '18 at 9:46
  • @AllTheKingsHorses Very true, though an unstable person may respond similarly to persistent ghosting as well. If there is concern about a violent response, formal measures (like filing a police report or applying for a restraining order) are advisable in addition to any given social strategy. – Upper_Case-Stop Harming Monica Jun 28 '18 at 16:06
  • I've seen lots of debate online about whether getting a restraining order a) escalates the situation (angers the violent person more) and b) is effective. But I've got no personal experience with it - putting distance between myself and potentially dangerous people has worked so far. – AllTheKingsHorses Jun 29 '18 at 13:40
  • My advice when dealing with a potentially dangerous person is never going to be "just ignore it", which is the essence of ghosting in the first place. If there is concern about violence and instability in another person there are few legal options, but that's a question for another stack. – Upper_Case-Stop Harming Monica Jun 29 '18 at 16:39

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