Is It Ever Okay To Use ALL-CAPS?

Yes but sparingly.

What’s the etiquette on using someone else’s Netflix account? My friend logged in on my computer once, about a month ago, and now I’m pretty sure I use it more than he does. He said it was okay, but I worry I’m messing up his recommendations and the whole thing seems a little sketch. Should I feel bad, or just wallow in the free movie-ness?

Do we need a Netflix therapy group? Is that what’s going on here? I am asked more often about Netflix propriety than I am about any other single internet medium, I think. This is weird to me because, unlike texting or Facebook messaging, there is (I had thought) limited space for interpretation. Nobody is using movie/show selections as a way to passive-aggressively try to hook up with anyone else … are they? First person: “MTV: The Real Word: Hook-Ups.” Second person: “She’s Too Young.” FP: “Grown Ups.” SP: “Casual Sex?” FP: “Much Ado About Nothing.” And so on.

Look, I’ve gotten into the ethics of Netflix borrowing before. I think asking for another person’s Netflix password is still a weirdly entitled and badly mannered thing to do, but you seem to have found a loophole. If someone else uses his or her Netflix on your computer and you can later log in automatically, can you use that someone else’s Netflix THEN? Actually, still no. Don’t ask then, either. Log your friend out.

But wait: you sidestepped me a second time. Did you know, at the time, that you were breaking all of my rules? I bet you could feel it. You went ahead and watched, and THEN asked for permission, and THEN your friend (who hardly had another option) said it was okay. That IS a little sketch. I would bow out while you’re ahead, but first: watch a few minutes of “Thank You,” and then of “The Power of Forgiveness,” and then “Judy Moody And The Not Bummer Summer.” He’ll get it.

HOW DO YOU USE CAPS ON THE INTERNET?

Too much, I think? I think I use them too much. I used to be worse, but one time I was sitting with a sort-of friend and instant messaging another sort-of friend (I was studying abroad, I had no actual friends) and typing out a message using a few all-caps words, and the sort-of friend next to me said, “Stop yelling at her!” Only I was not yelling, or angry in any way? And I was just trying to make plans, but with EMPHASIS on certain WORDS? I just want people to read things in the exact way I would say them, if we were talking in person. Which, I guess, is kind of bossy of me. But also, that is the correct way to approach capitals. MY WAY.

Still: caps and emoticons and italics and swear words and any other language devices that break up our straight, everyday speech are all “less is more” deals, much as it may pain me to say. Just as much as the content of a presidential speech could get lost if every other word were “fuck” (and even though we might love to see that happen, for America), much of the substance of your email/blog post/etc. can, and probably will, be lost if every word is completely capitalized. (Exception: tweets. I am pro all-caps tweets.) Use caps sparingly, for emphasis, and just keep in mind that, especially with people you don’t know as well, others might not see your caps as charming over-enthusiasm. They might see it as yelling. I know, I DON’T GET IT EITHER.

How long should I expect to have to wait for a text from someone I’m starting to maybe see? When I’m trying to get to know someone, the “ack he hates me and is just being polite!” feeling gets all tangled up in the “people are busy” reasoning and well, I guess my second question is: is there a non-weird way to ask a possible S.O. to not blow off replying to texts for 24 hours, even if the only reply is “Sorry, under a file cabinet, talk later”?

As to your first question: oh, I don’t know, forever? You can expect to see your fingernails grow. You can expect to look out the window and see the seasons change — to watch a little boy playing in the park out there become old, and then dead, and then a ghost. You can expect to feel the effects of global warming within your own room — within your own body, almost. You can expect to look at your phone again, after all of this has happened, and to see that only nine minutes have passed.

My point, and it is a cold one, is this: does it even matter how long you have to wait? You will have to wait for what feels like infinity, unless you are a) some sort of crazed, heartless android that has the capacity to not let this sort of thing consume you, or b) you are dating a benevolent wizard. Worse still, there is no statistical data on this question. I can’t tell you the standard deviation for “average time waited for text.” (I do know, though, that it’s too long.) Believe you me; the dearth of scientific investment in this issue is something I have decried frequently and loudly.

You are absolutely correct that everyone should reply as soon as physically possible to everything, even if only to say that they will actually respond later. If I could leave humanity with one legacy, I think that’s what I would choose, to be honest. “Texting is NOT A F#$%ING JOKE” – that’s what I want you to put on my gravestone. Unfortunately, though, there IS no non-weird way for you to inflict this edict upon people you do not know very, very well. I am sorry. Besides, you want to see the truest representation of what this person is, when you’re just starting to date. If s/he is a day-later-texter, then I give you this simple plea: run.

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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