DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am a 20-year-old college student with an Internet-savvy mother who loves joining forums and message boards. The other morning, I e-mailed her a picture of my boyfriend's new haircut, which I got off Facebook. She asked for before and after pictures, so I sent her a second, personal photo from my own computer a couple minutes later. That evening, she told me she had posted my boyfriend's pictures on a forum. I was very surprised and asked her not to do that again, but we got in a spat over the etiquette. My mother feels that because the picture had already been posted online, my boyfriend should be aware that the picture is open to the general public no matter what. Besides, she felt because he is part of our family, it shouldn't matter.
I tried to explain that on Facebook, my boyfriend may have been sharing with 10 or 15 real, not virtual, friends via computer. The website is only optionally open to the general public and is very different than sharing with strangers, which is what she was doing.
Am I correct in trying to explain that even though one posts a picture on the Internet and it is "fair game," there is still a matter of etiquette, or am I off base?
GENTLE READER: Yes, you are right, but you should still listen to your mother.
She is right that everything you post online should be considered public. Restrictions are meaningless if anyone in your chosen circle decides to forward anything. Chiefly, you should listen to her warning that nothing you show or tell her should be considered private.
Miss Manners is particularly appalled at your mother's notion that privacy need not be respected in connection with family -- and her even redefining family to include someone who is not actually related.
But you have been warned. Perhaps one day your mother will learn that losing the confidences of her daughter is too high a price to pay for gossip material.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: My husband recently left me and is off pursuing his own happiness (though, I should say, he is very close with our two daughters and sees them regularly). It is the holiday season, and I usually send out a family card to family, close friends and more casual friends.
Should I mention our separation, or forthcoming divorce, in our holiday cards? It seems rather harsh for a casual greeting, but if I sign it with just myself with my daughters, many friends and family will be notified that something significant has changed, but without explanation, which seems more confusing.
I don't want to spoil the happy holiday spirit with my unhappy news, but I am not sure how exactly I "announce" the situation without spreading some gloom.
GENTLE READER: Many would have trouble handling a mixed message such as "Merry Christmas, I'm getting divorced," Miss Manner agrees. It also may not be a good time for you to handle the pity and curiosity that a widespread announcement might evoke -- or, for that matter, the apparent indifference of people who do not respond because they are busy or away.
So what is wrong with a bit of confusion?
If you sign only your name and your daughters', you will alert people in a low-key way that does not seem to demand an immediate response. You could also note that "Jared is now living at..." and give his address.