How Long Is Too Long To Respond To A Facebook Message?

Especially now that people can see when you’ve seen them. Also, what’s the best way to deal with a Twitter typo?

Now that Facebook notifies people when you’ve “seen” their message, how long is too long to avoid messages? I don’t want to be obvious that I am ignoring certain ex-boyfriends.

I am on the record here at FWD as hating “seen” notifications in any form. There are just things that we, as human beings, are better off not knowing; not having definitive proof we’re being ignored is one such thing. You know what people do when they want to see how another person is reacting, in real time, to what they’re saying? They talk to them IN PERSON. Or on Skype! Or on the phone, even, to some extent. People use Facebook messaging when they don’t want to be TOO direct or seem TOO interested; being that we’re talking about exes, please keep that in mind.

All that said: what you have here is an opportunity. Why in the world would you not want your certain ex-boyfriends to know you’re ignoring them? If you’ve been ignoring them, you’re obviously not on great terms, so keep doing what you’re doing, I’d say! Enjoy your upper hand — the sweet new vengeances that technology sometimes affords us. Imagine that you are very, very tall (like 48 feet), and in the palms of your outstretched hands are your ex-boyfriends. They’re trying to shout things at you — things like “wats up” and “hey girl how are you” — but you can’t hear them, because they are so tiny that it would almost be cute, if they weren’t your ex-boyfriends. It starts to rain. You look up towards the clouds, and when you look back down at your palms, the little people that were once there are gone — washed away. You couldn’t respond now even if you wanted to. So it is, and so it shall be, with exes’ pointless Facebook messages. It is perfectly okay for them to know you might be SEEING what they’re saying, but you’re not hearing it, and you’re certainly not responding to it.

What’s the right way to deal with a Twitter typo?

First, you’re going to have to get your hands on a live bluebird. You could put a trap outside your window, but the chances that you’ll end up with mere pigeons are quite high. You should probably go to a pet store. Buy one bluebird and DON’T act suspicious about what you’re going to do with it. Look the store clerk in the eye, unblinkingly, and say, “This will be my pet bird, Alfred. I will love him until his dying song.” That way the clerk will know you’re normal.

When you get home, put the bird in a small cage made of birch twigs (it has to be birch). Speak the corrected version of your tweet aloud to the bird, spelling each word after pronouncing it. Finally, pack yourself some rations and head for the forest. You’ll be looking for a deserted clearing with a marble altar in the middle. Finding marble altars in nature can take up to two days, so you’ll want to be prepared. When you find it, set the birdcage on top and take out a large knife from your knapsack. Use it to cut yourself some apple slices — give one to the bird. Sit still on the altar and ponder your existence.

Isn’t it pretty weird that you went to all this trouble to correct a typo? Technically I’m not even sure that that bird will know how to get into your Twitter account.

One of the less laborious solutions is to delete the tweet and rewrite the corrected version. This is what I do, and it works best if, like me, you reread your tweets 17 very quick times right after sending them. If the corrected version gets out quickly, this is the easiest way to cover your mistake. If more time has passed and your followers are tweeting annoying corrections at you, you can tweet “Followers! Let ye who have not typo’d cast the first stone!” or similar. Or you can just let it go, and live with a small, haunting shame forever. All of these work just fine, and are less likely to get you banned from pet stores in the tri-state area.

Are subject-line-only emails acceptable?

No.

OK, fine, I’ll say more about that, even though the stark brevity of a simple “No” WOULD be a symbolically powerful answer, reminiscent of the lack of attention and care you devote to an email when you leave the body empty and sad.

Maybe I’m alone on this, but I think we should still (even in 2012) be treating e-mail as electronic mail. Did you know, for instance, that that’s what “e-mail” is short for? Subject-line-only emails would be like sending someone a blank piece of paper by post, and writing “what did you think about Prometheus,” or whatever short thing, on the outside envelope flap. What are you trying to do, get arrested by your postal worker? I mean, sure: we certainly use emails more casually than we do handwritten letters. That’s fine. But let us not be barbarians. Remember this: it takes one second to write a subject, one second to address your email’s recipient by name, and one second to sign your own name at the end. If the body of your email can fit in a subject line, that will take one second, too. You have four seconds to spare on simple graces. I know you do.

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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