DEAR MISS MANNERS: My younger sister and I have a close relationship, so when she told me that she was interested in someone, I was happy to hear the details of the blossoming of a new relationship. Sadly, both her and my classes will keep her from introducing him to me for a few months at least.
Facebook, however, makes the world a little bit flatter: Since her relationship has been posted, with a click of a button I can send him a message.
Is this a good thing to do, or will an email introducing an older sister (who is hoping for a response in kind) be inappropriate?
My sister will almost certainly not mind this; and furthermore, I trust my sister's judgment on matters of the heart. This is not an attempt to give or withhold my seal of approval: I'm driven by an interest to meet the person who my sister is so fond of.
However, I don't want to send anyone into a state of panic or to give a bad first impression. What should I do, introduce myself by email or wait a few months until I can be introduced in person?
It seems that you often come down slightly negatively on the topic of social networking. But while these can cause problems, especially if people don't use it intelligently (setting security levels to keep what needs to be private sequestered away, and being respectful of other people's personal space), there are wonderful benefits to be had.
Personally, I feel that it's very nice to be informed of details of the lives of those living far away: I love to see friends and family's posts of their more random thoughts and actions during the day. These are the things that distance would deprive you of otherwise, and while they are nice to know, these small things are not the stuff that good conversations are made of. It's also nice to be able to inform those with whom one is not close enough to talk on a weekly basis, but who nevertheless take interest in your life, of some of the larger events: such as new relationships that, while public, are not yet cause enough to call everyone one knows about.
As a side note: It is also a nice, not particularly harmful way for one to broadcast to those who would be suitors that they are not single. While networking certainly should not be used as a substitution for meeting in person or a phone call, many of these things really enrich the lives of users.
GENTLE READER: What do you mean, your sister would "almost certainly not mind" your jumping into her courtship? Couldn't you use one of those substitute methods of communication to ask her?
It strikes Miss Manners that the issue here is not networking, but meeting the family. The timing of that tends to be delicate, and surely the person most concerned should have some say in that. Would you, for example, consider it desirable for your parents to introduce themselves to your sister's beau -- whether through Facebook, or by calling him, texting him, or tracing him down and knocking on his door -- without asking her?
Do we really want the world to become flatter like that?
As for your side note -- Miss Manners is fervently hoping that this is a mere theoretical example, and that your sister is single.