Walking the social tightrope

I remember Granny Mac coming home from Eastern Star and saying, “I saw that Minne Lee, and she didn’t say hello, kiss my foot, ‘ner nuthin’!” Snubbed she was, snubbed! The social protocol had not been followed. She had not been acknowledged.

It was easy then to identify when one had been given the brush-off. Social etiquette was clear – in part because there were vastly fewer considerations when tiptoeing one’s way through societal folkways and mores and also because the rules were plain. You spoke politely to your friends and acquaintances. You wrote your notes. Your brought an appropriate covered dish or small gift. It was easy.

Nowadays the social guidelines are fuzzy at best and down right obscure at worst. There are an infinite number of things to consider.

Is it appropriate to send a thank you email? A thank you tweet? Maybe just a “TY” and a smiley face? Do I follow with a written note? What if I just add a few more exclamation points? It’s so tiresome to have to find a stamp.

What if your tweet or post is not replied too? Do you friends suddenly hate you? Are they ignoring you? Was it an affront not to comment on a major life event like what they had for lunch? Am I obligated to comment on everything? What if I never comment? Then I’ll be out of the feed/loop/know. Is that really all that bad?

Why was Betty’s friend request accepted and not mine? Really now…Betty? What’s wrong with me? It was probably just a glitch in the system. Maybe she meant to click on my friend/follow request and hit Betty’s by accident. Who would want to be friends with Betty anyway…her macaroni and cheese comes out of a box. Tramp.

On the proverbial flip side, am I obligated to be “friends” with more people than my just my real, live, honest-to-goodness friends? Is my boss my friend? Do I really want my boss to know all about my girls’ weekend in Destin? Or how about the creepy guy from high school/the mail room/the corner store? I don’t want to be his friend, but I don’t really want to make him mad either.

Then there are the pictures. There’s the party I wasn’t invited to but all my friends were or, conversely, I got to go to, but they didn’t! Even if I don’t post pictures, what if someone else does? Do you even always know when your picture is being taken? And why in the world did Emogene post that shot of me where I was all shiny? My God, what is she trying to do to me? I didn’t post the one of her where her bra strap was hanging out…just you wait, Emogene.

And whilst I am sure none of my dear readers are given to philandering, don’t dare be somewhere you’re not supposed to be with someone you’re not supposed to be with! You don’t have to be Brangelina nowadays to find your collective mug on the world wide web in flagrante delicto.

Births, deaths, marriage, divorce, adoption, cohabitation, break-up – happy news, sad news, no news…it’s all out there. But do you really want to find out about the death of a relative or a friend’s divorce right after reading the daily lunch specials posted by the taco truck? What if your boyfriend suddenly changes his status to “it’s complicated” when you thought you were fixing to change yours to “engaged?”

And who knew my cousin’s brother-in-law’s step-dad’s girlfriend was the leader of Republicans for Wicca? My aunt took up belly dancing? My great uncle collects dolls? Was that who I think it was on that float dressed like Carmen Miranda? Should I make mention? Ignore it? Can’t wait for Thanksgiving this year!

It really is all too much for the manners-conscious to bear. The ramifications! The slights! The provocations! Where does it all end?

Best to remember the old adage: If you can’t say something nice…stay off the internet. Oh, but you can always come sit by me.

8 thoughts on “Walking the social tightrope

  1. love love love! as always 🙂 (should I follow this up with an actual written note? do people still do that?)

  2. My mom used “she didn’t say hello, kiss my foot, ‘ner nuthin’!” in conversation. I have missed that phrasing. Thanks, Audrey, for a big smile from me. (And a bit of discomfort at knowing how crappy I am at timely thank you notes, for which my mother would–and sometimes did!– kill me.)

  3. My mother says that all the time, too. I always wondered, would it have been better if Betty Lou HAD, indeed, said “Kiss my foot” instead of nothing at all. Maybe “Kiss my foot” was right on the tip of her tongue but she thought better of it and decided to remain silent as a slightly more polite alternative. The world may never know, because she “did not say so much as kiss my foot!” And my grandmother was in the Eastern Star, too. I don’t tell many people this, but I was a Rainbow GIrl. I know you’ll keep it under your hat.

  4. Audrey, If I can raise the money I am going to a new internet page called “Aquaintance Page” for all those people that I accidentally bumped into in the restroom in the sixth grade. I am amazed at the amount of people that want to be my friend! I have to ask other Facebook friends “Who in the hell is that”? I know a lot of people think I am stuck up but they need to read the definition of “Friend”. I am glad Sharon Thomason found your site and told me about it, I enjoy your blog, you are a good writer.

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