DEAR MISS MANNERS: When one signs onto any form of instant messaging and notices via one's contact list that someone else is already online, to whom is the ultimate responsibility to take notice? The person signing on or the person already there?
I take daily comfort from noticing that my brother must be alive and reasonably well as he is online, but he has never, ever, initiated a chat with me by something as simple as "Hi, sis, how are you?"
I get stubborn and decide to wait, and after months, I will break down and initiate a chat with him. He almost always responds and we chat for a bit, exchange pics, news, etc. Then, months later, I break down and do it again.
Am I unreasonable to want him to evince an interest in me?
Also, what about friends who never reply when I initiate a chat? "Hi, how are you?" Nothing. And, then, there is the friend who almost always "hides" that she is online. If I send an off line message, she usually signs in and we chat.
GENTLE READER: Try picturing these people at their computers.
They're working, aren't they?
Well, that's what they claim. As you and Miss Manners suspect, some of them are playing games, some of them are shopping, and some of them are opening their little hearts to strangers.
But at any rate, they are all busy at something, and you are dropping in unannounced, so to speak.
True, the existence of this system invites one to do this, which is why Miss Manners finds it objectionable. Why can't you just take a chance that your friends will answer your offline messages when they are free? Or get in touch with them by other means?
In any case, Miss Manners does think it unreasonable to consider that failing to be ready to drop everything and chat at any time is an indication of callousness.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: Next year I will be installed as the head of a moderately large, not-for-profit organization. The event takes place at an annual meeting, and there is a cost for the meal associated with that event, usually around $75.
Is there a way to properly announce such an event to people who might be interested in attending while making it clear that there is a cost involved for them?
Some guests I will invite as just that, my guests, and I will be paying their costs for the event, but I can't do this for everyone. The ones coming as my guests will receive a formal invitation, but I'm puzzled about how to invite the others.
GENTLE READER: You are not the one to do it. Let them receive the invitation, with its price list, from your organization.
Miss Manners realizes that social connections are used to make people feel obliged to support one another's activities, and supposes that you will want to include your card, saying that you hope to see them there.
But she urges you not to exert any more pressure than that. It would only make clear -- perhaps, as you fear, after they make the commitment -- that they are not among your real guests.