April 29, 2011 in Features

Facebook eliminates the personal touch

Judith Martin, United Feature Syndicate
 

DEAR MISS MANNERS – Many of my friends, acquaintances and even family members use Facebook as the primary and only means to announce their major life events. This includes engagements, marriages, pregnancy, childbirth and even deaths of family members.

These status updates are exclaimed into the Internet ether, and it seems as if the popular response is to give a thumbs up, a “congrats” or “condolences” on the announcer’s virtual wall for public consumption.

If the news is particularly important to me, I will respond with a handwritten note. However, I do it seldom, because I can’t help but feel that the announcer takes the news lightly and thinks me so unimportant that they don’t actually pick up the phone or write a personal email at the very least. Instead, they throw it out to the public and expect people to care and to respond to this outburst.

I even found that my close relative’s girlfriend was pregnant only because she posted a sonogram of her uterus on her Facebook page.

How would Miss Manners begin to address this fantastic erosion of etiquette? Facebook has become the central means of communications amongst people that I know, and it seems archaic to opt out. I can’t help getting offended and sad by its crudeness, though.

GENTLE READER – Don’t cut off Facebook to spite your …

to spite your …

to spite your …

Please! Would someone rescue Miss Manners and finish this unfortunate sentence?

The point she wants to make is that there are public announcements and private ones, and Internet social sites are acceptable places to make public announcements (among which Miss Manners does not include “Look at my uterus!”). The problem here is not that these are made there, rather than in newspapers, but that the first, more direct announcements to relatives and close friends are neglected.

The greater losers are the givers of such news, not the recipients. True, it is chilling to find that no special notice has been given of an important event in the life of someone one cares about. But surely it must be more chilling to receive only those minimal comments instead of the squeals at happy news and sighs of commiseration at sad news that personal notification would elicit.

Miss Manners hopes that you nevertheless continue to respond personally to announcements from your intimates, perhaps gently making the point by beginning, “I read that you …” are engaged, have a new son, or whatever.

It is not only the proper and kind thing to do, but it may serve to remind the recipient of how nice it is to hear directly.

DEAR MISS MANNERS – I just received a large inheritance from a great aunt who passed away a year ago. It has literally changed my life and I am so very grateful, humbled and in complete shock. Her husband is still alive, and I want to send some sort of thanks, but I am not sure how to say it and not sure if I need to. Can you point a polite girl in the right direction?

GENTLE READER – Write him that “It has literally changed my life and I am so very grateful, humbled and in complete shock.” Miss Manners gathers that you are a polite person, and that she only need correct the address to which you sent these sentiments.

If you would like a copy of Miss Manners’ newsletters, “On Cellular Phone Courtesy,” “The Etiquette of Proper Eating” or “Proper Wedding Planning,” please send a self-addressed, stamped No. 10 envelope and $2 (per newsletter) to Newsletter, PO Box 167, Wicliffe, OH 44092-0167. Please state which newsletter(s) you wish to receive.


Thoughts and opinions on this story? Click here to comment >>

Get stories like this in a free daily email