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Facebook 'friends' not for everyone

Dear Miss Manners: I have been invited to be a "friend" on Facebook by two people whom I have known for years, but time and distance have limited our contact to an occasional greeting card or email. Maybe I am old-fashioned (at the age of 50, I think I am entitled), but I do not want this kind of superficial relationship, especially when I see that these Facebook "friends" are sharing personal information with hundreds of people.

When the first "friend" request came, I replied that I was pleased that he was thinking of me, but that I was not interested in participating in Facebook and would be glad to continue communicating via letters or email. I never heard back from him, so I'm afraid he was offended. My response to the most recent request was merely to send an email saying, "Thank you for thinking of me -- hope you are well."

This, I hope, acknowledged her message politely without committing myself to a Facebook "friendship." Was I behaving incorrectly?

Gentle Reader: Only in that you mistook the requests to be a friend for requests to behave like friends. Facebook has done a lot of damage in messing with that definition. (But then, Miss Manners remembers when banks used to declare the intention of being everyone's friend.)

What your correspondents were doing was seeking to add to their contact list of people with whom they could exchange mini-announcements, passing thoughts and photographs that might turn out to be regrettable.

Such requests are usually sent to everyone whose address is available (and sometimes without the knowledge of the person whose address book is being used). Your gracious response is no more likely to cause offense than your silence would have been.


Present or no present?

Dear Miss Manners: I was invited to an old friend's bridal shower. It has been about five years since I last spoke to her in any meaningful way, even though she has become friends with my cousin and future sister-in-law.

Attending the shower of this "long-lost friend" would require my traveling four hours, making arrangement to have our pets and animals watched, and making arrangements for a delicate health situation I am experiencing (all of which she knows about through my family).

Will I be in breach of wedding etiquette if I do not send an expensive gift to the shower, even if I decide not to attend?

Gentle Reader: You go to a shower, you bring a present. You don't go, for whatever reason, you don't bring a present. Why people mistake invitations for bills, Miss Manners cannot imagine.