Saturday, July 25, 2009

A Question of E-etiquette

I enjoy moral dilemmas. This may surprise you, in that I can come across as immoral. I sneak food into movies after all. I do what I think is right, which may not conform to societal norms. But what I've already decided is morally acceptable isn't that interesting. What's interesting is new moral quandaries. And the internet is a great place to come across them.

E-etiquette is new and exciting. Well, exciting isn't accurate. If you find etiquette exciting, there's something wrong with you. So says 3/4 of a doctor. E-etiquette is new and interesting.

Established e-etiquette practice: I always accept facebook friendships. Every time. I feel it would be morally reprehensible to state, through my official inaction, that another living individual is most definitely NOT my friend. Accepting a fb friendship isn't a statement that they are a real friend, just an acquaintance or individual with mutual commonality in some manner. So I always accept fb friendships.

However, I only accept 365 fb friends. Sure, it will bounce up to 368 every now and again when I don't keep it neatly trimmed, but eventually it will be cut back to 365. Johnny Guy-from-the-street adds me as a friend and I am obligated to say yes. Do I cut Sally Cute-girl-who-should-date-me or Jimmy-friends-since-elementary to make room for Johnny? No. So to stay at my 365 I will cut Johnny from my list, usually a week or so later. He'll never know, he'll just think I don't update my status very often.

New e-etiquette quandary: Must I respond to every SingleSaints message? Due to my crippling social inadequacies, I am a member of SingleSaints, LDSLinkup, and probably other sites I've signed up for and forgotten about. They're Mormon dating sites, if you couldn't figure that out from the names. However, seeing as I'm cheap I've only signed up for these 2 because they're free, and because I'm busy I never use them.

Unfortunately other people do use them. Obviously that's the point, and it would be great if Sally, who is cute, smart, is Mormon, lives nearby and is fictitious saw my profile and decided to send me a message. Unfortunately Sally is fictitious. But Maria is not. Maria represents one of the thousands of Brazilian Mormon girls who are on SingleSaints. A couple times a week I get a message from a different Brazilian girl. The message is generally something like this: "I'm Maria. I love the church. Let's talk." Unfortunately that message has a fair amount of subtext. Namely "I live in Brazil. This is all the English I know. I live in Brazil. Also, I may actually be a dude from Illinois. But if not, I live in Brazil."

I get a couple of these messages a week. Any time I sign on to the account to see Maria's profile (who to be fair isn't ALWAYS from Brazil. Sometimes she's from Germany. Or is a single mother from Illinois who has no profile details) it updates me as Recently Active and I end up getting more emails because people think I actually use this site of my own volition.

Should I respond to Maria? It's rude not to respond to messages. I always respond to facebook messages. Because I'm on facebook 80 times a day and I feel there is actual utility to conveying information there. However, I don't think Maria and I have a future. I don't KNOW we don't have a future, but I think it's pretty unlikely. Maria could be a fantastic person. But she's in Brazil, and I never will be if I don't get that million dollars. And she doesn't really know English. I can hardly speak to people who know English, let alone those using Babelfish to send out mass messages. But I don't want to cancel the account, because what if Sally finds me on there?

My current standard is playing possum. I don't respond to Maria's messages. I also don't update my profile, because I think it's a finely tuned message designed to lead Sally to me should she read it. And hopefully by not changing my profile or adding friends, and otherwise avoiding the site, it will look like I don't use it. Maria won't feel personally slighted because the Ranteumptom she's reaching out to must have died saving puppies from a fire. Hopefully that gives her a warm fuzzy. And I won't have to try to have prolonged conversations in broken English with girls who are trying to escape the Southern Hemisphere. And although avoiding the site for prolonged periods diminishes the chances of Sally finding me, the chances were so small in the first place that I feel it's an acceptable loss.

I intended this post to be about 3 sentences long. The question: is it rude to intentionally ignore messages from people you'll never know? Does the social contract still apply to interneters? Answer: I don't know; maybe I am, but I don't see a good alternative. A new moral dilemma. Your thoughts?


Anonymous said...

Befriend some Brazilian chicks what can it hurt? Just a suggestion but if you want to date a cute local girl maybe asking would be easier than them finding you on a dating site where it doesn't appear you are an active member?

esodhiambo said...

Thanks for the FB info--I will now go and defriend a bunch of people without them even knowing it.

Isn't there some setting on dating sites that you are only interested in local contacts?

Ranteumptom said...

Anonymous, my dilemma is whether I'm morally obligated to respond to these messages, not how to find girls to date. Clearly, using a dormant SingleSaints account to try to find girls in Columbus is like saying your main source of income is the lottery.

As for the hurt of befriending Brazilian chicks, that opens another dilemma. The first few messages were novel and I did in fact respond. It went something like this:

Chris - Hey Maria, good to meet you. Where do you live in Brazil?
Maria - I love the church.
Chris - but where do you live.
Maria - Temple is beautiful.
Chris - I do like temples. Who's your favorite footballer?
Maria - Sao Paulo.

Painful. Do I need to put myself through that pain? And seeing as I'm 99.87% sure these conversations will not result in dating, and it's a dating site, is making internet small talk the equivalent of leading her on?

Esodhiambo, I defriend with impunity. It notifies you when someone requests friendship, and when it is accepted. It does not notify them when it is terminated. It also doesn't seem to recommend you as a friend if you were a former friend. But if they were to actively look you up again, they could see that you're no longer friends. So there is a chance you can make mortal enemies. But if they're not in my top 365, I'm okay with that risk.

Reza said...

My rule of thumb for internet relationships (both romanic and non) is don't friend/game/chat with anyone you don't know in real life.if you haven't met them don't be their friend on the face. Cause what happens is you get lame updates about potty trainings their kids. I think its okay to totally ingnore random girls from other countries. Cause the next thing you know you they will want you to check out their webcam...

Anonymous said...

The verbatim-like exchange is pretty funny. No I suppose if you are characterizing the exchanges as painful during the get to know you stage, pursuing that further would be rather ridiculous.

Michelle! said...

The possum trick works pretty well for me. When I get stuck in awkward e-mail dilemmas, I just reply with an invitation to my funeral.