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.

11 responses to “Proper Etiquette In The Online World”

  1. Jana says:

    I don’t think I ever read anything that would encompass what I think and feel about frienship (and internet contacts for that matter too! :P).. If it’s of any consolation – same happens with guys, tending to expect I am the entertainment. SOme start a conv and leave. Some start, chat and then leave without a ‘bye’ or a word (I have a rule never to leave without a that SO odd and hard?) I cut way too much slack, generally to both internet and real life friends, but there is a point where I sort of have enough. Something like that happened 2weeks ago, when a friend of mine and I were supposed to go see a movie- agreed upon previously and confirmed 2x. I changed my evening schedule even. Then I call at about 1pm to arrange on time. I never heard from this person, not that day, not after (well they knew I am upset at that point I guess-which is quite hard to do). Well now, that is just about as far as I go. How hard is it to pick up a phone, when you had 1/2 day to do so? It is downright rude. I did not mind thing not happening (never mind this person tends to cancal 50% of times and i never minde), things do come up, but I do mind not bothering to be polite enough to pick up a phone and say a word..(and btw Duane, this is a friend, whom I offered to help with moving a few months ago! lol) This little incident made me think even harder about friendship – EXACT the thoughts that you just put down in your blog.
    I just wish people had more manners and courtesy in themselves. I don’t think it’s so hard, nor cultural. This are common-sense things, plain, old common things, that just come down to one thing – respect.

  2. Jill says:

    I’ve learned that it’s easy to make friends with the people with which you have things in common—i.e., those you went to school with, work with, or share interests with—-but once you take away the circumstance, what do you have left? I don’t have much in common with one of my closest friends, we don’t even live in the same city so we can’t get together and hang out. We keep in touch through IM, e-mail and blogging but often find ourselves laughing and asking, “why are we friends again?”. I think it comes down to the fact that we both genuinely respect and care about each other, which is something that is harder to find than one might think. It’s good to know that we’re not friends just because we can agree and will tell each other what we want to hear. There’s something a little deeper and less tangible to the relationship. I think that’s what makes me say I’d do anything for this friend. I know I don’t want to lose what we have because I don’t know where I’d find it again.

    And I agree, if someone takes the time to send you a note or say hello, the least you can do is respond, even if it’s to let them know you’re busy at the moment. I was once told by someone that he was very bad at long-distance friendship, simply because spending loads of time on emails or other technological wonders was really at the bottom end of his priority list. Understandable I guess, but it still feels crumby knowing you’re a low priority friend.

  3. Duane says:

    I was once told by someone that he was very bad at long-distance friendship, simply because spending loads of time on emails or other technological wonders was really at the bottom end of his priority list.

    I think that’s a really shitty excuse, and I’ve heard it lots before.. If writing an email takes too long, pick up the phone and say hey. Everyone wants the benefits of friendship, but not many people want to put in the effort to sustain it..

    At the end of the day we’re mostly the combination of our life experiences, of the people who loved us and who we loved, of the friends and family who supported us when we fell, and all of the sunsets and storms we weathered along the way. I don’t understand how someone can call you a friend when they don’t make the effort to show you friendship, or to actively take part in your life. Maybe my expectations are too high, but I really don’t think so. As Jana said, it’s really about respect and common sense.

  4. amanda says:

    Well I totally agree. I have been on both sides of that friendship. I have finally been for that coffee and then wondered why I gave up so much to be there. We get to pick our friends so when you find them spend the time with them…you know who they are. They are always there at the drop of the cell. They spend their last dollar on you or surprise you at just the right moment. They can speack for you and laugh with you. Friends and family…the true joy to life. It takes devotion and time to make but worth more then any amount of money or things. Pick up that phone and make someones day! Grab the Timmy’s and surprise them one morning. Don’t work late everyday, don’t make excuses…just do it! Tomorrow may never come….for life is unpredictable. That is the life worth living. Duane….remember block those that wasTe your time and how about getting your sister back online!~ Love ya~

  5. Clay says:

    I tend to not mark my friends by how often they call or how active they are in my life. I rather mark them by the quality of those times when they are present. I have friends that I see or talk to on very rare occasions, (once or twice a year in some cases) but it doesn’t mean we’re less friends for it. I have friends I see every day who i’m not as close to as well. It’s all a matter of perspective.

    At the end of the day, however, it truly is all about the moving… the real friends will be there even if just to help unpack and hang out, and the fair weather friends will have excuses.

  6. Rebecca says:

    I agree with Clay, you know you have a good friend when you can go 5 days without IM’ing or calling and you know they’re still your good friend – it’s not even an issue.

    I started writing an immensely long comment but at this point I’ve decided I’ll just write a post and link back here 😛

  7. Duane says:

    Clay and Rebecca – I agree with what you guys are saying. And in fact, some of my best friends are ones I don’t see or talk to very often. But the difference is that if I were to pick up the phone and drop a message, they would get back to me. I think what I was really trying to say here is that too many people have sort of a situational friendship — that is when it benefits them, they are willing to treat you like a friend. But once that benefit is no longer there, they’re not really around for you.

  8. Rebecca says:

    I think that just comes with the flow of information in this day and age. People are used to only hearing what they want to hear, hence the popularity of RSS feeds and the like. It’s the capability to customize what you pay attention to.

    We select what we want to be notified about. Call display lets you select which calls you want to take and IM “busy” or “away” messages allow us to mask our interest online.

    On the other hand, people also automatically assume you are reachable all the time. I keep my cell on vibrate when I’m at work and when I get home I leave it in my purse. If someone calls and a) knows that I should be home and b) can see my online status – they think I’m ignoring them if I don’t answer their call. It’s hard to believe but I’m not connected 24/7 and that “missed calls” can happen without intention.

    Then again, I get what you’re saying – and some people are just assholes :p

  9. Rebecca says:

    Oh and about the situational friendship thing – isn’t it funny that the people who you call, invite out, and want to hang with and always refuse are always the ones that get royally pissed off if once in a blue moon they actually want to do something and you can’t because you’re deathly ill or something. Yeah… those “friends” are fun.

  10. Duane says:

    It’s funny you should mention that because that’s part of the reason I stopped writing for a few days..

  11. […] Duane Storey wrote a post about friendship etiquette, on which I’ve commented so much I just decided to write my own post and link on back to him. 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 [DS] Photo credit: Curtis Perry on Flickr […]

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