DEAR MISS MANNERS: My wife and I have a successful marriage and two grown children. We love each other very much.
My problem is her obsession with social media and all of the goings-on with her friends. She constantly asks me to look at pictures, videos, events and the minutiae from her online friends.
In the beginning, I used to take time to look, but now I can’t stand looking at another baby video, or another post from a friend attending a polo match. This stuff is so uninteresting to me. These people are not really her friends. They may have been childhood friends 50 years ago, or worked together 30 years ago. I have no clue who they are.
I have tried to tell her nicely multiple times that these things do not interest me, but she gets peeved and generally testy when I decline.
Then there are times when I will relate a story about my day, and she will claim “not to be interested” because I cannot show interest in her “world.”
Social media is ruining our society. In general, we have become a world of “Look at me, I’m here,” and “Look at me, I’m doing such and such.” How do I handle this?
GENTLE READER: Having attended quite a few children’s birthday parties in her time, Miss Manners is used to ignoring the hand with which the magician is gesticulating wildly and instead concentrating on the other hand.
She does not mean to suggest that you intend a sleight of hand, but one is nevertheless in progress. Revealing the trick requires only that we remove all 21st-, and perhaps also 20th-, century technology from your question.
Your wife is excited by, and wishes to share, news of a friend or acquaintance of hers you do not know. Is this interesting? Possibly not. Are you required to show interest? Of course. Is it also reasonable to expect some limitations on how much time and energy you will have to devote to feigning an interest you do not feel? Yes.
All of these things were true before the internet and will be true when our children’s grandchildren dismiss social media as hopelessly old-fashioned. Discovering that you object to social media on principle does not remove your duty to show interest in your wife’s interests. But a discussion about how many baby videos constitute sufficient interest is in order.