Hello Faithful Readers, and welcome to March’s rousing rendition of Gothic Charm School. *This* month the Lady of the Manners is finally going to make good on something she’s been muttering about for a couple months now. That’s right, the long-threatened LiveJournal etiquette rant! Er … column.

Now first off, the Lady of the Manners wants to make it perfectly clear that she isn’t opposed to the idea of LiveJournal, bloggers, or any other on-line diaries. Once she got over her dismay at the idea of keeping a personal diary that anyone with an Internet connection could find and read – a diary that was public, and not written by hand in a beautiful velvet-covered book and oh dear, there goes the Lady of the Manners showing her Luddite roots again …

Anyway, *once* the Lady of theManners quit having a knee-jerk disdainful reaction to the idea, she though it was rather charming. A way to peruse the writing and thoughts of interesting people AND be able to comment on the things one read! What fun! What an interesting way to find people with similar interests!

Then, of course, the Lady of the Manners started noticing some … problems with the way people were using these things to interact with others, and all of you know what THAT means: one of those terribly helpful (at least one *hopes* they’re helpful) lists of etiquette hints. Starting with:

1. When you’re asked “How are you? What have you been up to lately?,” whether in email or in person, DO NOT reply “haven’t you been reading my web-diary/LiveJournal/blogger?”. DO NOT assume that all of your acquaintances are even *aware* that you have such a thing. Many many people are busy with jobs, having a life, and so on. Which means they may not have time to read your personal corner of the Internet just to keep tabs on you. That’s not being unkind or uncaring, that’s just the way things are. So, when someone asks how you’ve been (and aren’t asking out of superficial politeness – which is still important!), tell them. Write out a reply to their email, don’t just cut & paste a link to your journal. The Lady of the Manners keeps having this recurring nightmare that in the near future, all social communication will be reduced to people emailing each other links to places on the web, thus bringing about the Death of Conversation. This is part of the reason she is giving you this advice; to stave off that horrible prospect.

2. Oooh look, you can comment on someone’s journal entry. Now’s your chance to explain to them why they are wrong, wrong, wrong about whatever topic they’re ruminating on. STOP RIGHT THERE!! Can you be polite in your disagreement? Can you express your opinion without name-calling or being rude and disagreeable? Uh-huh. Are you *sure* about that? Don’t give the Lady of the Manners that look, she’s seen the sorts of flame war antics you get up to when you think she’s safely distracted by watching Moulin Rouge for the 8 billionth time. Remember that old old saying of “if you can’t say anything nice, then don’t say anything at all”? (Yes you DO remember it, stop stalling.) If you read something in someone’s journal that you don’t agree with and you can’t refrain from commenting, then be as polite and kind as possible in your rebuttal. In fact, you’re probably better off not commenting at all. No, really. Because first you’ll say something, and then the journal-keeper will write something snippy back (or go post an unkindness in *your* on-line journal), and then the other people who read the on-line journals in question will feel compelled to chime in; it’ll end in tears and recriminations, mark the Lady of the Manners’ words.

3. It is VERY bad form to spread gossip about others in your journal. Yes, everyone gossips. However, writing bits of gossip in a public forum, where everyone you know (and quite certainly many you don’t) could read it, comment on it, and then start their own little ponderings & interpretations of the gossip in their little web-diaries for others to peruse? Tacky, boys and girls. Tacky, distasteful, rude, and juvenile. If you have a piece of “information” that you MUST pass along, then do it the (semi) old-fashioned way, and send it in private email. Which can be forwarded to all the wrong people anyway, which is yet another reason you probably shouldn’t indulge in gossiping.

Hmmm. In terms of on-line diary etiquette, that’s pretty much it. At least, those are the things that sent the Lady of the Manners into a tizzy. Oh, but the Lady of the Manners did want to address one other teeny-tiny thing …

In many ways, this monthly column is the Lady of the Manners’ very own version of a web diary. Month after month, she gets to sit down and burble about whatever may be raising her hackles. Readers have even been able to post commentary, what with’s new format and all. Which is part of the reason the Lady of the Manners finally came around to liking the idea of on-line journals – how could she in good conscience rail against them when she indulged in something very similar? However, the Lady of the Manners still has some reservations about on-line journals that she wants to make sure her dear readers understand, just for her own peace of mind.

On-line journals are just that – on-line, where anyone can read them. (Yes, the Lady of the Manners said that already. She’s going to expand upon that theme.) While she is all for journal-keeping, the Lady of the Manners can’t help but think that some things should stay private. Do you really want all your innermost thoughts and emotions on display, for everyone and their grandmother to comment on? Even if it seems like a good idea right now, are you absolutely sure you’ll feel that way even 2 years down the line? One of the delights of private journals is the ability to re-read them after time has passed, be reminded of the person you once were, and then breath a sigh of relief that no one else read your self-indulgent whining – it’s a rite of passage almost. So the Lady of the Manners would like to just gently suggest that those of you who DO keep public on-line diaries might want to edit them a bit more than if you were simply scribbling in a notebook somewhere. That’s all, you don’t have to if you feel that the Lady of the Manners is being a trifle alarmist and a busybody. But do you really want the *future* love of your life to be able to read all the journal entries about the *previous* loves of your life? The Lady of the Manners didn’t think so.

Now that she’s delivered that bit of concerned advice, the Lady of the Manners is going to walk away from the computer and go read a book. But you should still email any questions you have to Gothic Charm School, and be sure to scamper back next month for more wacky hijinks.

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