It seems that Facebook has brought back the social pressure of having to acknowledge people that you barely know or haven’t spoken to in years and didn’t hang out with all that much back then. What do you do if someone that you were acquainted with 10 or more years ago tries to connect to you and you know that if you rejected them it would cause a flurry of email and IM gossip of how bitchy you are? There doesn’t seem to be any guidelines out there. An old friend and I were chatting about it this evening, how it’s all a little weird, and forces you to say you’re “friends” with people because you don’t want to be mean. But I really just want a little privacy.
The Victorians had a name for the act of ignoring people you know. (I basically majored in Victorian literature, so that’s why I know it.) It’s the cut direct, and I’m not sure why we ever got rid of the phrase.
THE “CUT DIRECT” – For one person to look directly at another and not acknowledge the other’s bow is such a breach of civility that only an unforgivable misdemeanor can warrant the rebuke. Nor without the gravest cause may a lady “cut” a gentleman. But there are no circumstances under which a gentleman may “cut” any woman who, even by courtesy, can be called a lady. On the other hand, one must not confuse absent-mindedness, or a forgetful memory with an intentional “cut.” Anyone who is preoccupied is apt to pass others without being aware of them, and without the least want of friendly regard. Others who have bad memories forget even those by whom they were much attracted. This does not excuse the bad memory, but it explains the seeming rudeness. A “cut” is very different. It is a direct stare of blank refusal, and is not only insulting to its victim but embarrassing to every witness. Happily it is practically unknown in polite society.
So basically today’s equivalent of the cut direct, or cut, is not accepting a friend request, LinkedIn invite or even an IM request. Facebook does have the ability for you to add them to your “friends” list and limit what they can see. It’s not super well known since I’ve talked to a number of people this past month who didn’t even know it existed – and really wished they had before.
But for the other services out there….it’s not like I can add you to my IM list and select when only you or the group you belong to can see when I am online. Ultimately everyone becomes a victim or perpetrator of the cut direct. I don’t think the Emily Post people have any guidelines on how to deal with this. And there needs to be some little handbook on this. Anyone know of one?