DEAR MISS MANNERS: Please provide a polite, subject-closing way to let people know I have no intention of joining the world of social media. People become quite angry when I say this, presumably because they think I am judging them for wasting time.
I am a teacher, and my profession depends on discretion and moral behavior: two items not readily in evidence on social media.
GENTLE READER: As a teacher, you no doubt recognize that Liam has to attend class, study and pass the exam before he can forget everything you tried to teach him. Etiquette is equally reluctant to skip to the final bell by providing an opening response that closes the subject.
Several answers, none final, as to why you do not participate in social media include: “I just don’t have the time,” “I’m not particularly interested,” and “I don’t really enjoy it.”
If you repeat these often enough, without elaborating, you will wear down your inquisitor. And you will avoid the consequences of telling someone that you consider the thing they cherish most to be indiscreet -- and worse.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: The science on wearing masks seems inconclusive, leading to near-religious zealotry on both sides. In public, there is no way to avoid taking a side. Governors, mayors, news anchors and doctors appear on TV hectoring the public to wear masks, while not wearing them themselves.
I can see why people dismiss such guidance and feel the need to take the matter into their own hands. Individuals who would ordinarily mind their own business now feel empowered to demand others accommodate their views.
What is a person to do when confronted in public by busybodies who disagree with their choice?
GENTLE READER: It was to avoid such problems that quarantines used to be (and still have been) given the force of law. When they come in the form of guidance, the best defense for an individual is still citing authority, as in, “I’m doing it because the CDC says it will protect your health.”
Miss Manners cautions against trying to reason with those who prefer the medical advice of politicians and news anchors to that of doctors. The only conflict remaining, then, is with those who are against social distancing -- so removing oneself from their vicinity serves a double purpose.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: Would it be bad etiquette to publicly shame a father who is trying to back out of paying child support? I know people have different reasons, but this person has a trust fund that could cover payments in harder times. Should we bring back some form of public shaming, or do we have to relegate that to the “good old days” and let deadbeat dads just go along their way?
GENTLE READER: Public shaming is a lethal weapon, often cruelly used, and Miss Manners urges you to be mindful of the details. Governments who publish lists of citizens arrested for driving under the influence only do so with good evidence to support the assertion.
The facts around divorces are not always so transparent to third parties. If you are not sure, avoiding his company yourself is less risky than challenging him about it at a cocktail party.
(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.)