When I was growing up in New England my mother used to use Emily Post’s finishing school in Connecticutt as a barometer for ‘good manners.’ Think of what ‘Miss Manners’ would say - or some such refrain - would inevitably meet my teenage breach of New England social protocol. Now all fully grown up (or at least nearly!) and living in England (or the ‘real thing’ as my mother would say), I have found myself thinking about Miss Manners more and more…. Not so much because I am intent to replay my adolescent battle with my mother, but because of the real angst I have seen Facebook cause. I can still remember vividly the first time someone I have known for years ‘de-listed’ me as a friend. The cold impersonality of the gesture. The sense of powerlessness I felt in the situation. Was it a mistake? Did I do something wrong? Should I follow up and check? Would I be breaching ‘Miss Manners’ School of Internet Protocol if I did? In the end, I cracked and asked the person. Turns out this person was trying to ‘clean up’ and ‘cut back’ on online clutter and did not realise that ‘cleaning up’ up a Friend’s list in this way could be taken in such a brutal light. Many notes of apology were subsequently sent to similarly ‘de-listed’ friends….. Following this encounter, I have since been with a few colleagues when they have likewise found themselves ‘de-listed’ and asking the same questions as me….. So I ask you - what is the correct protocol. And how do we make sure we all know it…… Or are at least aware enough about it to not unwittingly hurt friends or shut off contacts via a medium that is meant to bring us all closer together?
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