Digital Manners: My Fiancée Wants More Attention on Facebook

Navigating the intersection of etiquette and technology.
Jan. 31 2012 10:47 AM

Offline Lover (Transcript)

Help! My fiancée demands that I show her more attention online.

Emily Yoffe:  Hey honey, did you see that video I tweeted of the skateboarding cat? It was so adorable, wasn’t it?

Farhad Manjoo:  I’m Slate’s technology columnist, Farhad Manjoo.

Emily:  I’m Emily Yoffe, Slate’s Dear Prudence advice columnist. And this is Manners for the Digital Age.

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Farhad:  Today’s question is from a guy who doesn’t care to communicate electronically with his lady love. He writes, “Dear Farhad and Emily, my fiancée complains that I post on friends’ Facebook walls, reply to their Google+ posts and reply to their tweets frequently, but that I never interact with her online, except to post or tag a picture of the two of us. I say that since I see or speak to her every day, I don’t need to communicate with her digitally and that I prefer to reserve social media for communication with far-flung friends or acquaintances. Plus, I don’t want to get all mushy on my page. That seems like icky PDA and I’d rather keep my smushy talk private. Who is right here?” Signed, Offline Lover.

So, Emily, what do you post on your husband’s Facebook page?

Emily:  Well, I post things like “Can you get off YouPorn and empty the dishwasher, please?” No. We do not post anything on each other’s Facebook pages. I was going to say we barely speak to each other. We don’t. We speak to each other all the time in person. We’re old and old-fashioned.

I think this woman should reserve her complaints for some really substantial issues that are going to be coming up, like what china pattern to pick and whether to have mauve or puce as their wedding colors. They’re living together enough.

Farhad:  I agree with you on this. If you’re seeing someone every day, you don’t need to communicate with them online. She does sound a little needy. The only distinction I draw is you shouldn’t try to hide your fiancée or wife on Facebook. If it seems like he’s going deliberately out of his way to avoid her online in some kind of fishy way, she should be worried. But he doesn’t sound like he’s doing that, because he’s tagging a picture of the two of them.

It sounds like she just wants to be acknowledged all the time. It sounds needy.

Emily:  This is the kind of thing that you need to keep in mind as you’re heading toward your marriage. How much attention and affirmation does this person need and how do you accommodate each other? I absolutely agree. People are using their social media all the time to have alternative lives and flirtations, etc.

But all this seems – at least from the letter – completely open. He is tagging her. She just wants a stream of online commentary to her. I don’t know. Is she jealous that he’s investing time in these far-flung people? She needs to get wrapped up in something more substantial.

Farhad:  In my relationship, I take it to be more important that I’m speaking with my wife in person, and that’s a greater sign that she is interested in me than if she goes on my Facebook wall and presses “like” on everything that I post. It’s not a high-signal connection. I don’t really care what she says on my Facebook wall. My wife and I rarely post on each other’s Facebook pages or do anything else on social media.

Emily:  So even though you’ve got 100 million friends, Farhad, she’s not paying any attention to what you’re doing on your Facebook page?

Farhad:  Right. That’s part of the reason. On Facebook, she gets lost among a whole bunch of other people that I connect with. We’ve often said on the show that people should consider their Facebook profiles and other social media as being public. And in public, you don’t really interact with your loved ones very intimately for a reason. It seems weird to other people. It seems, as this guy says, like icky PDA. You reserve that for more private moments.

Emily:  I totally agree. Occasionally, my sister will post something on my Facebook page as, “Oh, I like this or that that you wrote.” I always think since we have the same last name and Yoffe is fairly unusual, people are really going to think this is an objective person liking this. Fortunately, she doesn’t write, “God, I hated that.”

Isn’t the pleasure of these intimate relationships that they just happen in real time, not so exclusively through digital means so you don’t have to be worrying about your Digital Manners – you just have to be worrying about the quality of your face-to-face interactions?

Farhad:  Yes, I totally agree with that.

Emily:  Our bottom line is she needs to have some friends who comment on how cute her skateboarding cat is, etc. and leave her fiancé alone, especially if she wants to have a long, happy marriage with him.

Farhad:  Right. Leave the smushy talk for private time.

Emily: Send us your questions about shifting etiquette in the online age. Our address is digitalmanners@slate.com

Farhad:  You can also join our Facebook page where we carry on the conversation throughout the week.  Go to www.Facebook.com/digitalmanners.

Emily:  And we’ll talk to you next time on Manners for the Digital Age.

Farhad Manjoo is a technology columnist for the New York Times and the author of True Enough.

Emily Yoffe is a regular Slate contributor. She writes the Dear Prudence column. 

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