Dear Tell All: I'm confused about the etiquette of writing people back in the age of email and Facebook. Way back when, I'd write someone a nice letter on a piece of paper and mail it; a nice reply usually came within a few weeks. But now, I often get no reply to an email or Facebook message I've sent. This doesn't bother me so much if my message is about trivial things, but what really hurts is silence after a more substantial note. In the past year, I've sent longish emails about personal matters to people I know, or am getting to know, and they don't bother to respond.
The other day, I found an old high school friend on Facebook and friended her. We exchanged short "how are you?" notes, and then I sent her a longer message detailing what I've been up to in recent years. At the end, I asked her what she's been up to, because I'm truly interested. But my polite inquiry never got a response.
What's the problem with these people?
Dear Correspondent: The problem is not with them, I regret to say. It's with you and your approach to new media.
The whole apparatus of old-fashioned letters -- the stationery, the fountain pen, the stamps -- lent itself to thoughtful compositions and thoughtful responses. You've transferred your thoughtful approach to email and Facebook, but few others have followed you. People tend to use such media for quick hits, and your friends probably groan when they see another 1,000-word screed from you among their messages, no matter how "nice" it is. Is there any way you can reduce those 1,000 words to an emoticon plus "lol"?
Sorry if that's not the answer you wanted to hear, Faithful Correspondent. But hey -- at least I wrote you back, right?
Do you have a question about life or love in Madison? Write Tell All, 101 King St., Madison, WI, 53703. Or email email@example.com.