Today's problem, I imagine, is one Miss Manners never expected she'd have to handle. And she does it rather well, I must say. She maintains her staid, self-consciously old-fashioned tone while talking about (possibly scandalous) facebook pics, which reads a bit funny at first but ultimately is a credit to her versatility, I think. I guess good manners really never go out of style!
Here's the letter:
Dear Miss Manners: A long-term boyfriend and I loved taking pictures together and putting them up online on our Facebook profiles for everyone to see. However, we have been broken up for almost a year now, and I have been dating another guy for a while.
I have not taken down the pictures of us (there are hundreds of them) because I consider them a part of my history. People have to search pretty far back in my photos to find them. I am also afraid that it would offend him, as we are attempting to remain friends. However, it leads to some awkwardness when friends of my current boyfriend ask me about "that other guy" in some of my old pictures.
This is a fairly new problem for me, technology-wise, and I'm not sure how to approach it. Is it more appropriate for me to take the pictures down or leave them up?
The mind boggles a bit at the thought of HUNDREDS of pictures that might need removing (Miss Manners does not enter into discussion on the pros and cons of de-tagging pictures that remain online--is it ok to de-tag someone ELSE in your own picture?), though I admit I have a couple people in mind for whom this might be a problem someday.
But the fact that the writer says you have to "search back pretty far" to find the pictures indicates to me that she is doing just that (probably at work). And honestly, she's probably the only one. No, nothing online ever really goes away, and she is wise to realize that out of sight does NOT equal out of the computer's mind...but if they've been broken up for over a year, and the photos are buried under hundreds of new ones (the writer does not indicate whether or not the same pattern is recurring with the new boyfriend) I imagine that no one else is really interested enough in this person's life to go digging for them. Until she runs for public office.
My favorite excerpt from Miss Manners' response follows, and, although grammatically awkward, is a useful lesson for all of us today:
Online postings should contain only what you might freely show new acquaintances without embarrassing others or (as an astonishing number of people need to be told) themselves.