Miss Manners: Giving the slip to would-be friends on Facebook

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Dear Miss Manners:

There are certain people in my life, as in all people's lives, whom I tolerate because I have to, but whom I don't trust at all. I am pleasant to them but do not seek out their company and do not confide my personal life to them. Cases in point: an ex-boss and a sibling, both of whose tendencies to lie, steal, cheat and manipulate in cold blood for personal gain make me think of them as sociopaths.

Now the world of Facebook has made it impossible to avoid them. Both have asked to "friend" me; both know that I have "friended" others whom we have in common.

The thought of their having access to details of my personal life, photos, thoughts, or even "friends" list gives me the creeps. On the other hand, blocking them while they know that I give others full access seems like a slap in the face and likely to cause more trouble between us. Other than dropping out of a very useful and enjoyable medium, what can I do?

When, oh when, are people going to learn that the Internet is not a safe place to store private information?

No, not even with the various available restrictions. Have you never confided a secret to a friend and then complained bitterly because the friend was not more discreet than you, who couldn't keep your own secret?

And as you sense, refusing access is like saying, "Nyah, nyah, I have secrets, and you can't see them." Short of keeping your personal information to yourself, the best you can do is to ignore these appeals, hoping that they presume you just don't check that often. Considering the vehemence of your descriptions of them, they are unlikely to be surprised.

Dear Miss Manners:

I grew up with the rule that a wedding invitation requires a gift, even if the invitee does not attend the wedding. But friends have been telling me that rule is obsolete.

I've been invited to the wedding of a first cousin twice removed, whom I haven't seen since she was 5. Her parents and I are in touch only through Christmas cards. I have no idea why I was invited and have no intention of going to the wedding, which will not be in my town. It would involve an expensive overnight hotel stay. Must I send a gift?

Those among whom you grew up were generous but misinformed. If you find this disillusioning, Miss Manners notes that at least it will save you money. Getting married does not grant people license to distribute bills to those who are minding their business. A wedding invitation is merely an offer of hospitality. As such, it must be answered, one way or the other, and it should also prompt a letter wishing the couple happiness. There is nothing wrong with also sending a present, but that is certainly not required.

Miss Manners has a new Web site: http://ww.missmanners.com.

2010 Judith Martin

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