Announcer: The following podcast contains explicit language.
Farhad Manjoo: Say it with Wi-Fi.
Emily: I'm Emily Yoffe, Slate's Dear Prudence advice columnist.
Farhad: I'm Slate's technology columnist, Farhad Manjoo, and this is Manners for the Digital Age.
Emily: Today's question comes from a woman whose neighbors have found a new way to lodge a complaint. She writes: "Dear Farhad and Emily, my boyfriend and I recently moved into a new apartment complex. During our first week we discovered that our upstairs neighbors enjoy loud, bed-banging-against-the-wall sex – often late at night. Then yesterday as I was connecting my laptop to my wireless Internet connection, I noticed that the name of one of our neighbor's Wi-Fi networks had been changed to 'We all hear you having sex.' Is this a brilliant way to send a message about uncomfortable topics to your neighbors living in close quarters, or is it passive-aggressive and/or cowardly? I have to admit, when I saw it I literally screamed, 'Genius!' " Signed, The Girl Downstairs.
So Farhad, which is it? Brilliant or cowardly?
Farhad: It's a bit of both. It's totally brilliant. I think it's a great way to break news to someone that you don't really want to personally encounter. I've never been in that situation, but I can imagine that it would be a very icky thing to talk about.
The way that I would I would approach it would be a passive-aggressive way, like to write a note or something. But this is even better because it not only sends the message to that neighbor, but it kind of brings a solidarity to all the other neighbors that everyone knows that they're sending a message to this one person.
So I think it's passive-aggressive, but it's also genius.
Emily: This raises a question for me. Should I be offended that I just got a new Blu-ray and had to hook up the wireless and I notice that my neighbors wireless was called "Don't you two ever have sex?" Should I take offense at that?
Farhad: They were probably talking about another neighbor.
Emily: I love this. Sure, it's passive-aggressive, but it's having fun. I'm not sure that people engaged in this are going to actually get the message. I get this letter a lot in the Prudence column. Clearly, I've discovered that I'm a pervert because I had upstairs neighbors who were having wild, passionate sex all weekend.
I wouldn't go out. I had a glass against the wall. What's wrong with me? I would no more think of sending a note saying, "Stop." I was highly amused. And, then I'd get on the elevator and he was this little overweight bald guy and I would just think, "Oh, you stud!"
But, if it's waking you up, there's nothing passive-aggressive about the anonymous note slipped under the door saying, "Your sex is so loud that all the neighbors can hear. Please keep it in mind."
I'm not sure this Internet thing is going to actually make any difference, but I think if your neighbors are bothering you and you can amuse yourself, good.
Farhad: So Emily, you're suggesting that the way to deal with this is with an anonymous note. I'm just curious why you think it's better to be anonymous.
Emily: Well, usually I'm in favor of low-key, direct dealing with issues if it's a matter of your dog barking – that kind of thing – a face-to-face conversation is fine.
When the subject matter is your orgasm, I think that's when anonymity works well. If you have the face-to-face discussion or you sign it with your name, then forever when you meet each other at the lobby at the Christmas party, you'll both be thinking, "And yeah, I know you really like going at it."
I just think this is a case for anonymity.
Farhad: I agree. I think the key here is you want them to know it's going on, but you don't want them to know that you, specifically, know. It could be anyone in the building.
Emily: Right. And since these people are apparently so loud, it could be anyone in this very large apartment building.
Farhad: This idea of sending message through your WiFi names, I think it's been around. I've seen some sites that chronicle it. In an apartment I lived in once – I don't know who it was; I'm assuming a neighbor – who named their network "FuckNut."
I always found it very offensive. I don't know if it was directed to anyone, but it was just not a fun thing to see an obscenity every time I wanted to connect to the Internet.
Emily: I agree with you there. It's one thing to be slyly amusing; it's another to be purposely offensive.
Farhad: Send us your questions about shifting etiquette in the online age. Our address is email@example.com.
Emily: You can also join our new Facebook page where we carry on the conversation throughout the week. Go to Facebook.com/digitalmanners.
Farhad: And we'll talk to you next time on Manners for the Digital Age.