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    Jun 1, 2012

    How To Turn Down A Facebook Invite So That No One Cries

    Should you decline it, or just ignore it? Plus, what to do about gross, cutesy couples on Instagram.

    What's the proper etiquette for turning down Facebook invites? I feel that when you aren't going to go to something, you should just ignore the RSVP rather than hit "DECLINE." True or not true?

    You’ve provided me with a leading question, which I like, because it means that you have several strong, unflinching opinions about something having to do with Facebook. I relate to that.

    I think you’re right. Facebook invites are not like normal invites. They are used to alert old acquaintances to things you’re doing with your life, mostly just so they know you’re doing SOMETHING. They are sent to people of whom the sender has no expectation of actual attendance. They can be really useful, sometimes! But more often, they are used like paper fliers. If you took a flier out from under your windshield wiper, tracked down the person who put it there, and told him or her that you didn’t want to attend that specific event, that person would think you were crazed and just kind of mean. The same is true for (most) Facebook events.

    Here’s how you know if you should ignore a Facebook invite rather than hit “decline”: 1) the event is taking place in a state/country other than the one where you live, 2) the invite is coming from someone you don’t regularly speak to and/or 3) the invite has been sent to over 100 people. There is just no need to RSVP with reasons for your inability to attend unless this is an event hosted by a friend looking for a definitive head count. Getting those little “So-and-so has DECLINED to attend your special day, because he hates you” notifications is annoying, and it feels personal. We all have to know that some of the people we invite by Facebook aren’t going to make it to our events – if having this go unsaid wasn’t acceptable to us, we’d use real invitations like adults, or call up our friends and invite them directly. Still, there’s no need to rub it in.

    A while ago I decided to send my "virtual" friends (Twitter/FB) proper e-mails to get better acquainted. About 75 percent of the people were very happy, and I continue to write them today. But the other 25 percent didn't write back, and it sent me into the inevitable panic that I had annoyed them. So, was this a fine idea? Or do people get deluged with e-mails and it's just irritating?

    Isn’t sending email the worst? I mean, sure — once the other person responds, it’s the best. But there is no constant, low-level panic quite like waiting for an email that might never come. Many of the people we email, like in your case, are people we don’t know in real life, and if they don’t respond, how can we really be sure they didn’t print out our emails just to tear them up and spit on them and burn them? We can’t. That could be happening like eight times out of ten.

    I don’t understand people who don’t respond to friendly emails — even if just to be polite and make one’s disinterest clear. Nor do I understand people who aren’t thrilled by receiving ANY kind of mail. EVERY time I get an email, I am as excited as Harry Potter was when he got that letter delivered to his cupboard that said, “Hey Harry, you’re magic, go buy a stick.” It’s why I always wear robes when I check Gmail. In a perfect world, everyone would be as thrilled to hear from you as you would be to hear from them. Unfortunately, the world is not perfect — I know this because there is now a boy band that calls ITSELF “The Wanted.” I’m sorry, but boy band names have to be acronyms and/or capitalized, stylized misspellings of other words.

    Here’s what happened when you emailed your friends: some of them (most of them! Good for you!) were excited and happy. A few of them were ambivalent. MAYBE one was quietly hostile, but I kind of doubt it. Sending emails to people you interact with isn’t irritating, but that doesn’t mean that everyone will (or has to) respond. Some people just aren’t interested in an email-based friendship, and that’s okay. Try (though I know this is impossible for me) not to take it personally. You have a good batting average right now, so you must be doing something right.

    My friend and her BF will not stop posting cutesy photos of themselves on Instagram. This would be annoying if they were 16 but they are in their thirties! I feel like I can't unfollow them and I also can't say anything, but it's also making me like them a lot less. HALP!

    I don’t know, can you have them bounty hunted? No, that’s probably too severe. Maybe you could hire someone to dress up as a bounty hunter (a Star Wars one, preferably – otherwise it would just look like a normal person) and PRETEND to capture them, but then he can just, like, drive them around the block and drop them back off. He can say, “Alright, take that as a warning.” They might not know what, specifically, they did, but they will probably be too on edge to Instagram themselves kissing over birdbaths or whatever. At least for a little while.

    The hard thing about posting pictures publicly is that how other people receive them really varies — your average Facebook engagement album might make some of your friends throw up a lot, while others will only throw up a little. I can tell everyone to stop posting 8000 pictures of their new puppies in various outfits, but is that really any worse than me posting a dozen pictures of me with a small group of friends? (Yes.) Both of these are of limited interest to other people. When you really think about it, it’s weird that any of us post as many personal pictures as we do. We are always going to think our own pictures are legitimately share-worthy, and certain others’ aren’t.

    That being said: your friend and her boyfriend are making me gag from here. The down side is that, outside of the hired Boba Fetts of the world, there aren’t many productive solutions to your concerns. You can scroll past them really quickly, or you can look at them verrrrry slowly and make cartoonish, grotesque faces to yourself. You can text a mutual friend and say “omg aren’t _______ and her bf’s pics the grossest?” She’ll be like “YES, WHO DO THEY THINK THEY ARE?” and you can text rant about it for twenty minutes. It will only barely help. There is no justice when it comes to PDA. None.

    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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