DEAR MISS MANNERS: What is the etiquette around addressing, with a friend, a personal topic that you learned about through social media?
For example, if a friend publishes on social media a story of their recent hospitalization, how do I handle this information the next time I see them in person? Do I wait for them to tell me again? Address it head-on? I have tried both approaches, and neither feels natural.
GENTLE READER: We have become so accustomed to the technology in our lives being replaced every six months that it is natural to think that etiquette is equally transitory.
It does evolve, but at a slower pace. The situation you describe is no different than when the neighborhood gossip told you across the fence that Mr. So-and-So’s wife absconded with both their retirement savings and the plumber.
Source and subject matter are the relevant issues. If the personal information was promulgated by the friend affected, you are free to address it; if it was promulgated by someone who had no right or reason to share, then delicacy is in order: “Did I hear that you were not feeling well? I’m so sorry. If I had known, I would have called.” And as before, some subject matter is best not touched at all until you have been told directly.