Miss Manners 2.0 (1/2)

Another day, another Facebook etiquette problem, eh?  So for all our sakes’,  let’s look at a (slightly) different shade of technoquette inquiry to Miss Manners:

Dear Miss Manners: When one signs onto any form of instant messaging and notices via one’s contact list that someone else is already online, to whom is the ultimate responsibility to take notice? The person signing on or the person already there?

I take daily comfort from noticing that my brother must be alive and reasonably well as he is online, but he has never, ever, initiated a chat with me by something as simple as “Hi, sis, how are you?”

I get stubborn and decide to wait, and after months, I will break down and initiate a chat with him. He almost always responds and we chat for a bit, exchange pics, news, etc. Then, months later, I break down and do it again.

Am I unreasonable to want him to evince an interest in me?

Also, what about friends who never reply when I initiate a chat? “Hi, how are you?” Nothing. And, then, there is the friend who almost always “hides” that she is online. If I send an off line message, she usually signs in and we chat.


Oy.  This can occur in real life, too, of course: when you walk into a room, is it your job to greet everyone to make them aware of your presence, or is it their job to notice that you’ve arrived, and welcome you?  Is there some algorithm like (distance between you) x (whose territory you’re on)/(who greeted whom last time) to help us sort this all out?

In days of yore (at least as they are portrayed in Audrey Hepburn movies), the noble folk handled this with formal presentations and receiving lines.

As Princess Anne in Roman Holiday, Audrey Hepburn stifles a yawn and elegantly nods to yet another foreign ambassador.

 In My Fair Lady, Audrey is the received, rather than the receiver.

This is a two-part ceremony, really:

  1. You have arrived!  Trumpets blare.
  2. The noble host, having just been reminded of your name, welcomes you to the party.  If you are lucky, and wear a very tall hairstyle, you will be pronounced, “charming, simply charming.”  If not, your host will be so bored with your presence that she falls off her own shoe.
  3. Ceremony completed,  everyone returns to what they were doing before, and it’s still up to you to figure out how to have a ball at the ball.

Seems to me that IM is rather like a ball (or thousands of overlapping balls) without a host.  We all announce our presence (remember the little AIM door opening sound? Does that still exist?), but there’s no host to organize things.

All this to say–seriously?  Don’t sign on to chat and expect to be “received.” Most people have dozens or hundreds of people on their contacts list.  I have people on mine that I haven’t spoken to in 7 years, people I don’t even know anymore, really.  Maybe they don’t want to talk to you right now–maybe they just haven’t noticed that you’re there.  Your friend who “hides” that she’s online (or happens to be using a computer, but choosing not to IM?)  isn’t hiding from you (well, she might be.  But then she probably wouldn’t sign in and chat in response to your “offline” message).

Waiting to see if someone will IM you first is equivalent to, well, any other kind of zany waiting game people play.  Like waiting to be called, or waiting to be asked to dance.

Just for fun, let’s also watch Audrey wait to be asked to dance:

If you want to chat, chat.  If they don’t reply, assume it’s not a good time.  What do you want, an engraved invitation?

Miss Manners gets it right:

Gentle Reader: Try picturing these people at their computers.

They are all busy at something, and you are dropping in unannounced, so to speak.

True, the existence of this system invites one to do this, which is why Miss Manners finds it objectionable. Why can’t you just take a chance that your friends will answer your offline messages when they are free? Or get in touch with them by other means?

In any case, Miss Manners does think it unreasonable to consider that failing to be ready to drop everything and chat at any time is an indication of callousness.

Stay tuned for tomorrow’s post: Miss Manners and technology 2/2!

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One response to “Miss Manners 2.0 (1/2)

  1. Pingback: Miss Manners 2.0 (2/2) | A Little Help, Please?

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