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Miss Manners: Keeping Facebook personal

Mon., Aug. 17, 2009

DEAR MISS MANNERS: Facebook is out of control. There are way too many people in this world trying to be your friend when you don’t necessarily want them to be.

What is the appropriate way to let someone know that you don’t want to be their friend on Facebook?

It’s easy if you don’t even know the person and they are trying to link up with you because of a mutual friend. I just ignore them. But when it is someone you do know and perhaps know very well but haven’t seen or spoken to in, let’s say, 20 years, what is the proper tact with that one?

GENTLE READER: Send your long-lost friend a postcard – an actual postcard, with a stamp and a handwritten message, saying it was nice to hear from him. On Facebook, nothing. Oh, and no return address on the card.

Miss Manners trusts that this will be profoundly confusing to the recipient. You have not snubbed him, but you seem to have taken his offer of friendship literally, when he only wanted to rack up numbers, make you peek at his life and perhaps peek at yours.

Why (he will wonder) have you answered in such an archaic way, instead of just clicking? Surely you do not expect him to make a similar effort?

You may leave him with that mystery and make no further effort.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: The food court in my office building is often visited by teenagers at the nearby high school during lunch.

Last week, I witnessed two students blatantly stealing soda from the fountain using small condiment cups provided by the vendor.

At first I stood in their way to deter them from their inappropriate actions, but when they continued with their actions, and were laughing and joking about getting away with it, I turned to them and said, “You should pay for what you have taken. Shall I inform the owner?”

They were shocked at being held accountable for their actions, said no and abruptly went and sat down with their friends.

I know that you consider it rude to intercede when others are acting inappropriately, but if children are not learning manners from their parents, shouldn’t they be confronted with the consequences of their actions?

GENTLE READER: Stealing, even such petty stealing as this, is a violation of morals rather than manners, and Miss Manners never told you that you couldn’t attempt to halt a crime.

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