Saturday, March 16, 2013

Giving the Digital Digit

I have never been very good at the whole social etiquette thing. I’m not talking about which knife to use at a Michelin Four Star Restaurant; I can’t even afford to breathe the air in one of those. They only go up to three stars? Oh well, there you are. I obviously should have known that. Nor am I talking about pulling out chairs or opening doors for women. That, I just don’t do. I am talking about the more general stuff, such as taking a bottle of wine when I go for a meal at someone’s house; sending thank you notes when someone sends me a gift; buying gifts when one is supposed to (there are these things called “birthdays” and “Christmas”, apparently; plus a whole bunch of others). I never quite know the correct thing to say in a particular situation. You mean, when someone asks me how I am, I shouldn’t reply, “Well, since you ask, I’m rather depressed at the moment, and my haemorrhoids are playing up something shocking”? (I had a German colleague in Switzerland who actually thought you meant it when you asked him how he was. How weird is that!) 

Now, of course, I face a whole new realm of etiquette: online etiquette. Take Twitter for instance. There seems to be this whole if-I-follow-you-I-expect-you-to-follow-me-back kind of etiquette. Some, in their online profile, make it very clear that if I were to unfollow them, they would immediately unfollow me. How can I be expected to bear up under the weight of such threats! And then there is this whole “Thank you for following me”, “Thank you for mentioning me”, “Thank you for retweeting me” crap. I actually succeed in feeling mildly guilty if I don’t thank everyone for mentioning me. In fact, I don’t thank anyone for mentioning me: does that warrant a trip to the confessional? I do kind of, sort of thank people for following me, but only because I want to tell them to buy my book or hire my services as an editor. I have a sneaking suspicion that they are doing the same thing; that they don’t actually love me, and are not actually rapturous disciples of mine. Perhaps I should banish such evil thoughts. And then there are those who, in barely suppressed italics and bold face, assert that they DO NOT READ DMs (for those fortunate enough to be out of the know, this refers to “direct messages”). And there are even those who expressly forbid the sending of DMs. Of course, this only makes me want to send them a DM, just to piss them off. One imagines squads of digital police arriving at the door, fully armed with delete keys.

So, if you follow me on Twitter, I might not follow back; if you “like” my Facebook page, I still might not “like” yours (and even if I do “like” it, that doesn’t necessarily mean I actually like it); if you read my blog, that doesn’t mean I will read yours.

No doubt the breaching of such rules of etiquette by someone like me sends some people into paroxysms of rage. I am probably at risk of being pummelled by exclamation marks, bold face and block capitals. Has anyone yet invented an emoticon for “the finger”. I’m sure they must have! There isn’t one among my Skype emoticons. It would be a welcome addition. 


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