Dear Miss Manners: I was quite taken aback yesterday at our monthly book group meeting when one of the members suggested that I absolutely must sign up for Facebook if I wanted to keep in touch with friends.
She pointedly noted that she knew all about a mutual friend, whose impending trip I was poised to inform her about. It seems she knows all about the trip, the various nephews and nieces, the new grandbaby and so forth – more about this person than I, who am presumably closer, knew. I felt quite deflated.
I also realized that I had not heard from the speaker herself for some time. Evidently she practices what she preaches and attends only to Facebook, not email, phone or the like.
I am able to use email, the phone and enjoy Internet searching. Must I also add Facebook?
This book group has known each other for 20 years or more. Most of us are into our 60s and 70s. I understand many enjoy Facebook with their kids and grandkids. But I am among those without grandchildren and have felt no need for Facebook, even to look at other people’s grandchildren.
Her comment makes me wonder. Is it now necessary to make oneself available through Facebook? Is it appropriate etiquette to inform someone that you will not acknowledge her if she is not on Facebook?
Frankly, I will not be joining Facebook, but I am disturbed that this seems to mean the end of any contact with this woman, and perhaps others who prefer Facebook contact. Have you any thoughts on this new wrinkle in etiquette?
Gentle Reader: Ah, how quickly a convenience turns into a command.
Apparently there are a great many people whose social circles are so vast that they cannot keep in touch with their friends individually, but must resort to mass postings to meet the demand for ongoing news of their lives. So Miss Manners can understand that it is convenient for them to reach everyone at once. They probably used to have to pack it all into those “Hi, Everybody!” Christmas letters.
She also recognizes that normal people might occasionally need to do so – for example, issuing medical bulletins when dealing with a crisis and unable to handle the calls of concern. In fact, she is puzzled that people still send out individual paper graduation announcements. (Yes, yes, she can guess why.)
But none of this should be mistaken for being in touch with people. The lady who complained is indeed signing off on the friendship. However, the mutual friend seems to be in touch, even if she has not told you every last detail.
But why do you need to hear every last detail? Miss Manners would think that rather than feeling deflated, you would be relieved to have your friends tell you specifically about what they think will interest you.