June 16, 2010

Miss Manners and Facebook

Oh Miss Manners...are you always right?  Here's here advice on giving the slip to would-be friends on Facebook:

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?

Gentle Reader:

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.


  1. Disagree entirely. Her metaphor's bad. It's not even about secrets. It's about association and reasonable privacy.

    The appropriate metaphor, as I see it, is a party or regular gathering. Facebook isn't publishing and it's not note-passing, it's regular and free, instant communication, like milling around in your back yard with your friends.

  2. I would agree with DN.

  3. I think she is spot on. Whenever I change or limit my profile on facebook many people who have little to no relationship with me at all are affronted. I've always felt like they thought that they have a right to my information.

    The only thing to do, then, is to ignore them.