Proper Etiquette In The Online World

Last modified on March 24th, 2007

A few weeks ago, I started reading over craigslist and frequenting a few of the online dating sites I used to go to in the past. A few emails have been passed around, and some of those have ultimately lead into online conversations via IM. What bothers me the most is that there’s this trend where people initiate a chat with you, and then are either too busy or too uninterested to spend time chatting. For example, this one girl will always IM me whenever she sees me and ask to chat. So I say sure.. Then, I spend 5 – 10 minutes waiting around for her one or two word response to every essay I write. I’m sure she’s chatting with a ton of people or something, but it just seems so rude to start a conversation without any desire to actually have a conversation.

Now, if I’m at work and busy, I’ll let the person know that I’m busy.. But if I’m at home, and I go out of my way to chat with someone, then I usually make sure I’m around to chat with them. Too many of these girls seem to just want attention instead of anything meaningful.

And here’s the best part — I’ve stopped playing the game. Whenever they IM me, I just give a one or two word response and then ignore them for a while. And the funny thing is, they get upset that I’m ignoring them, or not talking to them, even though they’re not offering anything to discuss… It’s like I’m a puppet and I’m meant to entertain them or something.

The next part I’ve questioned a lot recently is the etiquette of friendship. What does it mean to be a good friend to someone? Does it mean keeping in touch? How about being there for them? Making them feel better when they are sad?

I’ve always said you can really tell who your friends are by the people who shows up to help you move. Seriously, nobody likes moving. It usually always is on a weekend, and it blows the whole day. Plus, you end up carrying shit that should have been thrown out years ago, and you have to keep a smile on as you move that 1000 lb 30 year old television set and act like you are having fun. Some of my friends always show up to help me move. They don’t ask where the beer is (maybe because they know where it is), they don’t ask for pizza, they just show up and lend a hand. And then there are those who always have an excuse. Just like there are those people who never commit to hanging out until the very last minute (when presumably, there is nothing else to do that night), the people who show up at your house warming party three hours late (after calling to make sure people are actually there), and the people who only return calls when they got nothing else to do.

Last year I went through a pretty big breakup. Part of breaking up, especially as you get to be my age, is evaluating where you are in life — what you did right in the relationship, and what you did wrong. Someone once told me a big part of any successful relationship, be it friendship or something deeper, is about *making* time for that person, not just about *having* time. Everyone has spare time to do random things, but it’s far harder and more important to *make* time for the things that we care about or are important to us.

How hard is it to pick up the phone from time to time to say hi? How hard is it to respond to an SMS message periodically? How hard is it to write a quick email to let someone know you care? Are people in this world so busy that they go around making other people feel bad because they can’t *make* a few minutes of time to help make others feel good?

I wish I knew.