Dear Urban Diplomat: My friend keeps posting candid videos of strangers online

Dear Urban Diplomat: My friend keeps posting candid videos of strangers online

If he hears people gossiping, he’ll whip out his phone and surreptitiously record, then he’ll post it on TikTok with condescending commentary. How can I convince him this isn’t okay?

A man watches his friend record strangers talking on public transit

Dear Urban Diplomat,
One of my friends has started policing strangers’ social lives online. If he overhears people gossiping, he’ll whip out his phone and surreptitiously record. Then he’ll post it on TikTok with condescending commentary. He especially likes when someone sounds off about their friend or boss. This seems like a massive invasion of privacy, and I fear I’m next. Yet my friend says he’s just performing a public service by exposing hypocrites. Who’s right?
—Indecent Exposure, Parkdale

Your friend needs to stop. Social media has normalized the practice of recording people without their consent—a grievous trend. Everybody gossips and grumbles, your judgmental friend included. So make an example of him. Next time he starts filming someone, stick your phone in his face and see how he likes it. You don’t even have to hit record: the mere sight of a camera should snap him out of his mean streak.


Dear Urban Diplomat,
Our cat, Jake, goes on occasional killing sprees—mice, rats, the odd squirrel. Recently, a neighbour installed some bird feeders on his porch, and the bodies have started piling up. He doesn’t suspect that Jake is the perpetrator, but I recognize our cat’s MO. Unfortunately, Jake escapes every bell collar I put on him, and the last time we locked him up, he shredded our furniture. Should I share my secret with the neighbour or keep quiet and hope it’s just a phase?
—First-Degree Birder, Thornhill

This is not a phase. Birds gathering around feeders look like an all-you-can-eat buffet to a homicidal feline. According to the National Wildlife Federation, keeping your cat indoors is the best way to stop the serial killing, but relocating the feeders could also make a difference. Ask your neighbour to move them to the middle of the lawn so that birds can detect Jake before he has a chance to pounce. And only let Jake out during the day, when he’ll be easier to spot.


More Urban Diplomat

Dear Urban Diplomat,
Every year, my girlfriend goes all out with multicoloured Christmas lights. The problem is that she’s now rebranded them as “winter lights” and insists on leaving them up well past the holidays. Sure, a peek out our window confirms that others still have theirs up too, but I think those people need to learn how to read a calendar. Do you agree this festive farce has gone on too long? What if I just rip the lights down while she’s out?
—Nightmare After Christmas, Fort York

In my view, there’s nothing sadder than saggy holiday decorations that have overstayed their welcome, but it sounds like your girlfriend needs something to help dispel the winter gloom. Instead of ripping down the lights and leaving dark empty spaces, consider a compromise. White LED fairy lights can brighten the balcony without evoking Yuletide inertia or jacking up your hydro bill. You could surprise her with them and subtly encourage her to look forward, not back.


Dear Urban Diplomat,
My husband is an eco-warrior. I’ve happily embraced his zeal for composting and even indulged him by making our own cleaning supplies. But now he’s coming after the thing that gets me through the winter: our family March Break in Florida. He’s decided he won’t fly because of the carbon footprint and suggested we take a Megabus to some cottage near Ottawa instead. (Hard no.) He says the kids and I can hit the beach without him. I’m sure he’s being insincere. Should I stay or should I go?
—Fossil Fool, St. Clair West Village

Skip Florida this year for the sake of something new. If your husband isn’t there, it won’t feel like your family holiday, especially for your kids. Still, he needs to up his alt-vacation game. Several operators specialize in green vacations, and many recommend Quebec City, which is easily accessible by Via Rail. There are also some off-grid lodges around Algonquin—just a few hours away via EV—that combine luxury with carbon neutrality. With a bit of research, the world will be your (sustainably raised) oyster.


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