Halp! Is It OK To Download "Games Of Thrones" For Free If I Tell Everybody How Great It Is?

Stealing is wrong. Unless it isn’t, maybe? The ethics of downloading free TV, plus how far you should go to include weird people who don’t have Facebook in your life. posted on

I can’t afford HBO or iTunes but I really really really love Game of Thrones and tell everybody to watch it. Can I feel okay about downloading it from the internets for free?

Game of Thrones referenced AGAIN! If this show had been around when I was in middle school, would it have been safe for me to be an out collector of Warhammer figures? Do the popular high school kids these days sit in the cafeteria comparing Skyrim achievements? I was born at the wrong time, I think.

Look, stealing is wrong. Pretty much everyone agrees that it’s not a nice thing to do. Paradoxically, that same exact pretty-much-everyone agrees that individually downloading entertainment is totally fine, as long as you don’t get caught. This makes us all free riders, and too many free riders are bad news. Think about it this way: the National Park Service Organic Act says you can’t take rocks from national parks. Now, you or I could probably go to Yosemite, take a rock each, and nobody would be the wiser. We would be happy with our new free rock friends. But if everyone starts to do this, we’re going to have a rock distribution problem. Do you see where I’m going with this? By downloading Game of Thrones, you would be literally destroying America’s national parks.

I can’t afford HBO either. I have the patience of whatever the animal with the least patience is. (…A hedgehog?) I feel your pain. All I can say is that you should try your best to avoid the illegal download, because it’s not very nice. Really really really loving something is not really an excuse for obtaining it illegally. (See: drugs.) [Ed. note: What?] What you should REALLY do is join a local D&D group – I guarantee at least one of those nerds has HBO.

Facebook abstainers – i.e. “Facestainers” – how far should one go to include them? I recently created an event in Facebook and sent the Facestainers a screenshot without comment. Was this rude? Another example: one half of a committed couple is a Facestainer and I wanted to share a picture of him/her, so I tagged his/her partner, who does have a Facebook. Right or wrong?

You’re really proud of that term, aren’t you? I know – making up words feels great. I just think you should know that yours has some potentially troubling alternate meanings that I don’t even want to think about right now.

It is rude to send your friends a screenshot of an invitation to an event they aren’t invited to, but it’s not rude to send your friends a screenshot of a Facebook event in lieu of emailing them a separate invitation. It’s a little weird, though, and definitely passive-aggressive! But not “rude.” Nor is it necessarily “rude” to tag someone’s boyfriend/girlfriend/partner to a picture of his/her significant other, but again, it IS weird. They are individuals, for one thing. If someone tagged me but the picture was actually of my partner, I’d be like, “What am I supposed to do with this?” Then I’d de-tag it, and then I’d be like, “Daryl, why are your friends soooo weiiiiiird?” [My partner in this scenario is the dirty and strong yet sensitive Daryl Dixon from The Walking Dead.]

I get that Facebook event planning makes things easy and I also get that it can be annoying to have friends who insist on living like cave people. But I mean, come on! They must have email addresses, right? Do you know how long it takes to just write out, “Hey, come to my party this Friday, it’s at 10,” or “Hey, here’s that picture of you throwing up off the roof” to your friend? 22 seconds, I just counted. Pull yourself together and send an email next time. If you must, the postscript can read “P.S. Get a Facebook account already.”

I have a recurring problem with writing overly long & enthusiastic emails. It’s a really bad habit that doesn’t go over well. An acquaintance writes to me about their research interests at grad school, or what they’ve been up to for the past few years, or they ask me about a city I’ve lived in, and in response I write a baroque 5-paragraph essay. I feel like these emails make me seem unstable? They’re definitely too long, sometimes people just stop responding. How can I curb this stupid impulse & edit it down before I hit send?

The first rule of Overly Long and Enthusiastic Emailers Anonymous (OLEEA) is recognizing that you have a problem. Believe me, I love nothing more than writing a good long email. But you and I are outlaw cowboys, and this town (the Internet) ain’t big enough for either of us.

In the olden days, people tolerated lengthier correspondences from their friends and relatives because it took a really long time for horses and buggies to deliver letters. Back then, you weren’t expected to quill your eight-page response to your second cousin/lover’s letter about Goody Sarah’s hanging on the same day you received it. Plus, half the time, letter writers ended up capsizing their wagons or dying of dysentery right after sending out their mail – when every letter you send could be your last, it’s important not to leave anything out. Yes, some of this might be drawn from Oregon Trail. Maybe a little from the Salem witch trials as well. Nonetheless, the facts remain: the historical bases for tolerance of long-windedness in personal communication are gone.

Long emails can stress people out, even when they’re from loved ones. You’re just talking about acquaintances, so you need to be careful. I sympathize with your need to talk about yourself constantly, OBVIOUSLY. But, unfortunately, this habit can alienate people who don’t want to feel guilty because they are unable (or lack the interest) to reciprocate. So! How to stop? In writing to these folks, lead with the topic at hand – them. Ask/answer relevant questions, and, at the end, you get ONE paragraph (4-6 sentences only!) to write about yourself, until you know they’re interested in hearing more. Happy emailing!

FWD: Halp! is a weekly advice column on how to behave like a person when using technology. Would you like said advice? Email your questions to Katie.

Katie Heaney is a writer and volunteer text message analyst living in Minneapolis. She thinks you should have good manners, even on the internet.

Illustration by Cara Vandermey

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