DEAR MISS MANNERS: I live in New York, and am lucky to have many friends concerned for me during the pandemic (particularly from my home country, which is far less affected). I say “lucky,” but initially, I was drowning in their concern.
At one stage, I received messages from people I hadn’t heard from for years, and requests for video calls from morning to night, which I was unable to keep up with. At the same time, countless “buddy check” text groups sprung up, with each social group requiring a check-in.
I’m still working, plus many of my friends are at home and contacting me at awkward hours. Over time, I’ve been able to gently convince some to back off -- reminding them that I’m well, happy, still employed, have a safe home, and am an introvert who likes isolation.
After spending my whole workday on video calls, this introvert really just needs some quiet time, and I don’t want to blog every day. However, if some extroverted acquaintances don’t see a social media post from me, they’ll send multiple messages asking if I’m OK and attempt to call. I set my phone to do-not-disturb after 7 p.m. so that I don’t hear the calls. They immediately text an “RU OK?”
However well meant, it feels really intrusive. I’m not sure what to do, short of simply ignoring these people entirely -- which feels very rude.
The truth is, I have a really well-developed support network and we look after each other. The presumption that these acquaintances need to do a personal “proof of life” check on me every few days seems absurd.
I’ve asked other friends here in NYC, and they’re experiencing similar frustration with people back home bombarding them with contact requests and check-ins.
What on earth can I politely say to get well-meaning people to leave me the heck alone? It seems like a little thing, but I’m at my wits' end.
GENTLE READER: As if there were not enough divisions in society already, COVID has created another: the Doing and the Not-Doing.
In addition to worrying about the disease itself, the Not-Doing are further oppressed by unwanted free time, which often comes at the cost of financial stability. The Doing -- a group that includes not just first responders, but food workers, teachers, civil servants and others -- are working longer hours than ever. The extra work is due to increased need for their services, but is made harder by the disintegration of any sense of time: Particularly if you are working from home, ”9 a.m. to 5 p.m.” no longer provides any protection.
Miss Manners reminds everyone that theirs are not the only frayed nerves. And she absolves you from responsibility for responding to emails, phone calls and texts for some time after you have assured your distant friends that you are grateful for their concern, but you are healthy, and that your only problem is that there are no longer enough hours in the day to get everything done.
(Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, www.missmanners.com; to her email, firstname.lastname@example.org; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)