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Answers to your netiquette questions revealed!

Etiquette in today's digital world can be tricky. Andrea Bartz, left, and Brenna Ehrlich are here to help.
Etiquette in today's digital world can be tricky. Andrea Bartz, left, and Brenna Ehrlich are here to help.
  • As we spend more time online, there are more opportunities for awkwardness
  • Upset you got "unfriended" on Facebook? Make sure you didn't do something to cause it
  • Does a co-worker represent you with horribly spelled e-mails? Blame a client, then offer to help
  • When family, bosses want to be FB friends, there are solutions, but it's always tricky

Editor's note: Brenna Ehrlich and Andrea Bartz are the sarcastic brains behind humor blog and soon-to-be-book Stuff Hipsters Hate. When they're not trolling Brooklyn for new material, Ehrlich works as a news editor at, and Bartz holds the same position at Psychology Today.

(CNN) -- The ground rules for online courtesy gelled sometime in the late '90s: Don't swear on public forums. Zip large files before sending. AVOID WRITING IN CAPS, AS IT IS RUDE TO CYBERSHOUT.

Today, as we spend more and more hours interacting online (Americans devoted twice as many minutes to social networking and blog-reading in 2009 vs. 2008, according to a Nielsen survey), there are more opportunities than ever for awkwardness, unintentional insult, rejection, creepiness and misunderstanding.

So this week, we're taking a break from broad-swath advice-spewage and instead playing Emily Post to our friends' and fans' real-life netiquette conundrums.

Frenemy territory

"A friend-of-a-friend whom I see in a group setting every month or two just randomly unfriended me on Facebook. I have no idea how I offended him, but now running into him is understandably uncomfortable. Should I just confront him?" --A Good Person, I Swear

We find it hard to believe you're totally innocent here, AGPIS.

The unfriend is a powerful symbol of cut ties -- We know plenty of sworn enemies who've steadfastly avoided it, still sending one another token Facebook event invites with fake smiles frozen on their tremblingly spiteful faces.

So if this snip-snip wasn't preceded by an actual blowout, you've got to ask yourself why somebody would want you erased from their feed -- do you update every 20 seconds with inane observations? Pen mushy posts on your girlfriend's wall?

If you're still coming up short, you could ... we dunno ... ask him what's amiss? If this makes you feel all squirmy-like on the inside -- revelation! Maybe y'all shouldn't be FB friends. Dude played FarmVille, anyway.

Word imperfect

"My co-worker sends business e-mails with a staggering number of spelling and grammar errors. It's at the point where we're all embarrassed he's allowed to communicate with the outside world, but no one knows how to tell him. He's like the guy in the office with terrible breath." -- Mortified By Proxy

Yeah, we hear this happens in fields in which employers value prowess in "math" and "hard sciences" and other such bewildering voodoo.

But unlike the close-talker who reeks of stale onions and rotting corpses, this guy probably knows his writing skills are subpar.

(Side note: This is why you must always, always, without exception, accept gum when offered and shove it into your mouth post-haste. I don't care if, thanks to a raging case of TMJ, the chewing motion will enflame your jaw and give you the bulbous chipmunk-y appearance of a college freshman who has just had his wisdom teeth yanked. Just assume it's a hint about your oral hygiene and start masticating.)

Anyway, the good news for you is that you can treat this like a bad breath scenario, with even less subtlety.

Vaguely blame it on the clients who've been subjected to his LOLcats-like missives ("They called me all confused, apparently they had misinterpreted something you'd written 'cause there was a typo") and offer that Altoid -- collaborative e-mails from your team (i.e., you write -- or skim -- the important ones).

Since that'll create more work for you, ask what else he can take on to re-level the load. Or just eat his soul. Wait, sorry, we were getting corporate America mixed up with hell. Our mistake.

Family values

"My little cousins/conservative aunt/Dad tried to friend me on Facebook. I don't need them/her/him seeing my drunk shenanigans or my angry status updates, but I get majorly guilt-tripped for rejecting their requests." -- Hipster Who May Or May Not Be Of Legal Drinking Age

This, HWMOMNBOLDA, is a common complaint and the reason many users keep scads of potential friends in Facebook deep-freeze. They're loath to hit "accept" and ashamed to hit "reject," thus locking acquaintances in friend-request limbo for all time.

Relatives, gung-ho about these newfangled social networking sites, are probably just excited that you showed up when they asked Facebook to find friends in their address book. (Fully 48 percent of parents merrily friend their hapless kids on Facebook, finds a survey from electronics shopping site Retrevo.)

But stand your ground. If you've traditionally limited your profile to your 677 favorite peers, letting in just one out-of-demo friend will throw off your delicate Facebook ecosystem (or just require a lot of freaking detagging).

You could allow them to see your limited profile (so certain portions -- i.e., all the snaps of you beer-bonging and then consequently darting around the yard sans pants -- just don't show up when they stalk you). But why bother?

Just mention that you only use Facebook to stay in touch with your good friends ("I'm just not that much of a Facebook person" is an effective lie), and direct them toward better ways to keep abreast of your goings-on: sweet weekly e-mail check-ins or your public Twitter feed, for example.

Relatives just want to feel close to their little angel -- no need to let on that you're currently foaming at the mouth and this close to quitting your job and finally starting that screamo band.


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