DEAR MISS MANNERS: One of my friends is the only person I know who is computer literate, but refuses to own any means of electronic communication. She owned a computer several decades ago, but once they stopped servicing the operating system, she got rid of it.
She won’t buy a tablet or smartphone (she says she can’t afford it, although before the pandemic, she was going to the theater once a week). And she won’t even carry a flip phone so she could text (which she claims she doesn’t know how to do) or at least be available via phone when she’s out -- e.g., if she’s coming to see me or we’re meeting somewhere. Before the pandemic, she used the computers in the library to check and send email every few days, but of course, that is not possible now.
Since she knows how to use a computer, is intelligent and has no visual or manual impairments, I consider her behavior selfish.
This really hit home when my partner died last year and I realized that Luddite Friend was the only person out of over 100 whom I could not notify, either by group email or social media. (I realize you may think those methods are tacky, but I found it a stress-reliever that I did not have to tell the same story over and over.)
I intensely dislike out-of-the-blue social phone calls, especially during an emotionally difficult time, so I conveyed the news of my partner’s death to this woman in a letter and sent it by snail mail.
I am at the point where I have pretty much stopped interacting with Luddite, because it annoys me that she has turned herself into such a high-maintenance project. She has no impairments, and she isn’t even doing this out of principle -- just out of laziness, selfishness or fear. I’m not sure which.
Is she being selfish, or am I being unreasonable? I suppose, to be honest, I should add that she is not someone I would have chosen as a friend; my communications with her are basically out of duty because she was my partner’s friend.
As a demographic footnote, she is in her mid-70s, but so are many of my other friends, all of whom have somehow managed to join the digital age in one form or another.
GENTLE READER: How dare this person, whom you do not even consider much of a friend, not be available to you whenever you choose to summon her?
And she made you write a letter! And she spends her money on the theater!
Over the years, as technology has developed, Miss Manners has been subjected to outbursts such as yours every step of the way. People were angry at those who used answering machines, saying they were rude not to pick up immediately. Soon after, they were angry at those who didn’t have answering machines, because they couldn’t leave a message.
Along came email, and people were angry at those who did not have it. Then they were angry at those who kept emailing instead of texting. And when everyone had a telephone, people like you were angry at those who telephoned them.
However, having informed your partner’s friend of the death, you have no further obligation to be in touch.
(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.)