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Can time be wasted?

Posted by Robin Abrahams  May 12, 2009 06:53 AM

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Writing about the Facebook Dissenter's claim that FB is a "waste of time" got me thinking about the overall question: what does it mean to waste time? I found it irritating that the Dissenter took it upon herself to judge what would be a waste of time for others, and then I thought: can we even judge what is a waste of time for ourselves?

The more I thought, the stranger the question seemed. It's like the incredibly subjective way in which people define "work." Imagine me and a hardworking stay-at-home-mom: at the end of a long day writing and reading, I say, "Enough work!" and head into the kitchen to clear off the counters and invent some new recipes. At the end of a long day cooking and cleaning, she says, "Enough work!" and goes to write in her blog or catch up on the latest issue of the Harvard Business Review. We're both right. Whatever "work" is, we can't define it by the activity itself, we have to define it by the way the person approaches it. The same must be true of "wasting time."

Some ideas I cycled through:

Maybe it's a waste of time if you're doing it mindlessly. It's hard to think of a bigger waste of time than sitting motionless in a room all day, and yet people I know who have done 10-day meditation retreats swear that it changed their lives. Clearly, not a waste of time. Watching television is an activity often decried (and sometimes praised!) as time-wasting, but that depends, too, on how you do it. I don't feel that time spent watching television is wasted; I'm too busy analyzing the underlying cultural meanings, the acting styles, the artistic choices in the shows I watch. (And, as I mentioned in a recent FB status update, I really did solve a problem at my Harvard job last week using something I learned on "M*A*S*H." I didn't perform an emergency tracheotomy on the receptionist, though. I hope people knew that part was a joke. We don't even have a receptionist.)

So I kind of like the mindfulness/mindlessness distinction ... but then I thought, hey, every action has consequences regardless of whether you did it mindfully or mindlessly. Back in my own Fabulous Bureaucrat days, Adonai knows I spent plenty of time zoning out in meetings, utterly mindless. But I had to attend them, and I got credit for being there. So the time may have been wasted internally, but it wasn't wasted externally, if that makes sense. I'm not usually having some big spiritual I/Thou communion with Milo on his morning walk, either, reveling in interspecies harmony like the love child of Temple Grandin and Martin Buber. I put my shoes on, convince myself that my pajamas look enough like workout gear to be presentable, and drag him out the door. But he needs to exercise in the morning and do his doggie business. I'm taking care of a dog I love, so how can that be a waste of time?

Then I thought, maybe an activity is a waste of time if you're using it to escape other things. Cleaning the house is wasting time if what you really need to do is work on your dissertation. Working out is wasting time if what you really need to do is plant your garden. Staying late at the office is wasting time if what you really need to do is help your kid with his homework.

I like this because it doesn't apply an a priori judgment on the value of particular activities. Anything can be a waste of time if it's used to escape something else. But, again, there are consequences to be considered. You'll still have a clean house, an exercised body, an impressed boss as a result of your alleged time-wasting.

And who decided that the other thing is what you "really" need to do? Sometimes it's obvious, of course: if your kid needs help, your kid needs help, and you can't decide that parenting really wasn't the best life choice for you after the fact. And going to the tavern as soon as it opens in order to avoid looking for a new job is clearly not an optimal choice for the unemployed. But if you find yourself heading to the gym every weekend to avoid working on your garden ... maybe you should give up on the garden. Maybe the problem isn't with your time-wasting activity, it's with the thing that you think you should be doing, instead. Maybe that thing is ill-suited to your temperament and talent. Or maybe you've built it up into this huge unapproachable thing in your head (I'm looking at you, dissertation) and what really need to do isn't so much stop wasting time and buckle down and do it, doggone it, as it is stop being so hard on yourself and reconnect with your joy and sense of play.

I often feel that I can or should be more efficient in my use of time, but I don't know anyone (especially any freelancer) who doesn't feel that way. The only time I really feel my time is wasted is when it gets hijacked by some circumstance outside my control. When I get too sick to do anything that feels productive, but not quite sick enough that I can feel that I truly have no choice but to take to my bed. When I get buttonholed into a long pointless conversation with someone that isn't bringing me any pleasure or enlightenment, and doesn't seem to be doing much for the other person either, but I still can't get them to leave me alone. When I'm struggling with a computer problem or malfunctioning bit of technology instead of being able to do the work the technology was supposed to enable. When a friend shows up late for a dinner date and I have forgotten to bring a book and must simply sit there. In short, I suppose I feel that it's not philosophically possible for me to waste my own time, but that it can be wasted by others, be they people, electronics, or viruses.

What do you think? What is a waste of time? Do you think we can ever make that judgment about others? What feels like a waste of time for you, in your own life?

This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
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24 comments so far...
  1. Early risers get the first comment! I appreciate that MC is good about
    bringing up the very true paradoxes of judgment. If you think openly and
    philosophically about it, it's really hard (or impossible) to judge what's
    a waste of time. If your *expectation* of what is supposed to be happening isn't being met, you'll believe it's a waste of time, even if there is something really interesting and valuable going on.

    Example: I'm constantly trying to stay 10 steps ahead of the kids I work
    with every day so I can give them what I think is the most instructive,
    valuable, hands-on experience I can give them. They don't pay attention
    to what I want them to, don't get the activity right, and I think "I could
    have done this 100 times faster just doing it myself" and then a little
    one notices some bug that I've never seen before and it turns out to be
    something I need to pay attention to and would never have taken the time
    to notice on my own hurried time. Not a waste of time, even though my
    expectation of what should have happened was blown out.

    But maybe if you're using an activity (or non-activity) to avoid your
    responsibilities to yourself or ESPECIALLY to other gets
    easier to say that someone or something is a waste of time. For me it's
    the element of avoiding responsibility that changes things a little. I'm
    watching TV because I'm avoiding getting a job. Or I'm going to the bar
    to avoid having a difficult conversation. But still, sometimes those
    things you choose to do in avoidance can still turn out to be the best
    thing you ever did. I always imagine that if I'm stuck in traffic, I'm
    NOT getting into an imaginary accident up the road.

    Doing nothing - absolutely nothing - can be incredibly valuable way to
    spend one's time on the planet.

    Posted by verena May 12, 09 07:33 AM
  1. For me, crashed computers at work, city rush hour traffic, and airports (especially on the way home) are all wasted time. Especially the airports (I'm thinking of you, MSP!). The latter two, though, usually have pay offs. I don't engage in rush hour traffic or hours of airport waiting time unless there is something I want to do in the city (or far away) and/or someone I want to see. So, wasted time, yes, worth it, hopefully.

    Posted by bluemoose May 12, 09 09:18 AM
  1. My bane is computer solitaire...none of the benefits of meditation, just zoning out. In the very early days of PCs, we could consider this mouse practice, but not any more!

    Posted by Marilyn S May 12, 09 09:43 AM
  1. "Doing nothing - absolutely nothing - can be incredibly valuable way to
    spend one's time on the planet." - Thanks for putting that out there Verena! The time I have spent doing apparently "nothing" on weekend or ten-day retreats has not only been intrinsically valuable, but it has completely changed my relationship to those (frequent) moments in life when my expectations of what should be happening are not being met. And that's good for me and for everyone around me :)

    Posted by Linda May 12, 09 10:13 AM
  1. I like the idea that the kavanah (intention) counts. If I do something idle (or apparently idle) because I've chosen to do it and I need that downtime, that's not a waste. And yes, if I'm avoiding something, then I need to stop and think about the thing I'm avoiding and its place in my life. I feel I'm wasting time if I'm not doing something as efficiently as I could, but often that inefficiency is brought on by fatigue or distress, and it is as efficient as I can be *at that moment*.

    A hearty "amen" to the sense of time being wasting by technological malfunctions, too.

    Posted by Jay May 12, 09 10:24 AM
  1. We should never pass the judgement that someone else wastes time. The term "wasting time" isn't helpful, and should be replaced by what we really mean -- what's behind that judgement?.

    Do we mean that someone (or ourselves) isn't using their time to achieve goals? A good friend does things I consider a huge "waste of time" (reads romance novels) but is productive in her career, got tenure, and has her second academic book coming out soon.

    I try to remind myself not to apply the "time wasting" phrase even to myself. I remind myself that I was doing X for a reason. This could be a reason which initially seemed legitimate (e.g., sinking days or weeks into helping a student on a research project that later "didn't go anywhere"), or one that was never explicitly made (e.g., random web-surfing that was supposed to take a minute and became an hour). In the latter case, I ask myself, what purpose was being served? Did I need zone-out time, a mental break? I must have been benefiting from that surfing where I was reading about Z, now I won't have to ever look up Z again. Remember the feeling of just having eaten a box of twinkies , and it'll be easy to cut short random web surfing.

    Posted by Traveling Psychologist / Professor May 12, 09 10:36 AM
  1. I'd never want to be thought of as someone who passed judgement on another person's choices in life (thus using the " it's just not for me" excuse for FB). Zillions of people obviously find pleasure in it and for them it's not a waste of time.

    I guess what I was trying to get at is the idea of using FB or any other technology as a means of avoiding "downtime." As in, "I'm bored, lemme log onto FB and see what's going on." Then you log on to discover everyone else is bored and you sit there and scroll and search and, well, waste your time...and all because, deep down, you couldn't deal with the alternative: spending that sacred time just being.

    I realize I may not be expressing this in the best way, but I'm hoping the intuitive out there get my drift. If you find pleasure and usefulness in FB (or any other type of new communication technology), then fantastic. Have at it. I'm talking about the underlying epidemic of mindlessness that's seeming to become prevalent in this day and age -- like the T operator texting when he should be driving. Well, he probably figured he could do that AND his job. Turns out not so much. Not only that, but you text enough and it turns into an ugly addiction that cannot be controlled. Thus the train crash.

    Or the girl on the blind date featured in the "Cupid" section of the Boston Sunday Globe Magazine. She answered a text during the date and proceeded to proclaim "how rude it was" in an attempt to head her date's reaction off at the pass. (Her date agreed that it was indeed rude.) Then she blythely joked that "that's why they call it Crackberry." Like that makes it okay?

    I guess it's my dismay at people making poor choices. Choosing unhealthy or even impolite mindlessness (because, I agree with Miss C, some mindlessness IS healthy) instead of realizing that no, you don't have to text at every given moment (in fact it may be dangerous to do so) or log onto FB to avoid your "life."

    Embrace the quietude. Challenge yourself to be still. Unplug. Just as you would use FB to connect with friends, family, whomever, choose to connect with yourself once in a while. Don't run from the silent moments that life presents (and instead use FB as your crutch.)

    I was just lamenting my dismay that it seems too many people are using technology to get away from the point where we humans may perhaps one day not know how to just be.

    Where past generations knew the meaning of "alone time" or even real true "boredom," today's generation can easily fill up any uncomfortable silences with the texts, Twitters, and FB's of the world. And too often, it seems, they do. But our species can and does benefit from the challenges of not having ANYTHING to do. And to even choose not to do anything. It's one thing to choose cleaning over writing a dissertation. It's another to choose texting, Twittering and FB to fill up every single moment when there's nothing else going on.

    Please, don't get me wrong. I don't want to pass judgement on anyone. I really admire Miss Conduct for the insight she brings to so many of life's big (and small) issues. To each his own. And we all know people will do what they want to anyway. People will have fun with FB and people will abuse it. I'm just thinking out loud about the repercussions of a world where people choose to rely on "false idols" to avoid the idea of simply just being.

    Of course, Neil Swidey says this all much better than I ever could:

    Posted by OffTheGridGirl May 12, 09 12:31 PM
  1. Thank you for your last two blogs on this topic. Mentally, I've been like "You tell 'em, Miss Conduct!" You said exactly what I was thinking but with more eloquence--why should any one person be the judge of worthwhile activities? Who establishes the criterion and why? Why does anyone think they are the arbiter of good taste, good use of time, good anything? When people say that it just gets my blood boiling--its incredibly judgmental and often not very informed.

    To me, a waste of time is when I spend time worrying/doing/being a way that doesn't accomplish the goals I have set for myself. Be that getting stuck in some timesink when I made plans to organize my closet or bake that pie, to stressing about something so that I can't actually do what would improve the situation.

    There is no end point/intention with wasted time. It just happens, and then you realize its almost bedtime and you're filled with disappointment/stress that you didn't accomplish what you needed to accomplish.

    To me, Twitter and Facebook is totally intentional and small part of my routine. I use it to keep in touch with friends and see what they are up to. Sometimes I see something witty, interesting, and clever and it gets me thinking or inspires me to reach out and make a quip. Totally not a waste of time. And besides, that stuff is what I do when I am already riding to work on the bus, catching a breath between work tasks, what I look at when I have 5 minutes before my lunch break ends. Hardly a major part of the day and something that fits in nicely around the main things going on in life. For those who are online, great. For those who aren't, I figure that that isn't their sideline activity of choice and its no biggie.

    Posted by Issy May 12, 09 01:00 PM
  1. maybe an activity is a waste of time if you're using it to escape other things

    Robin, have you heard the term flicking? You might enjoy it.

    Also, it was nice to meet you this weekend. (I'm the person with assymetrically bleached hair who fangirled you when you first arrived with Kate and later pulled you over to ask questions in a way that I later realized was obnoxious -- I am sorry!)

    Posted by Rebecca May 12, 09 01:04 PM
  1. OTGG, I'm generally with you on the technology thing, as I see myself starting to get sucked in (hey, right now!) to all of the options on the internet. Why now and not last month? Cause we just got high speed internet. (It's not so much fun when one's sitting around waiting for the site to open.)

    I read Miss C's post this morning and thought about it off and on. I came up with two things that qualify for me as wasting time. The first is doing something beyond its shelf life. Examples: trying to attract someone's interest when you've already tried several times and it didn't work; rearranging the ornaments on the Christmas tree when they're fine (don't know where that one came from today!); checking FB when you've already checked it several times today; etc.

    The second waste for me is more important, and that is spending time worrying about things when the worrying won't help any longer. Found a lump? Obsess over it for a day and read everything on WebMD --- and then call the doctor for an appointment and don't think about it any more till the day of the doctor visit.

    These are both ways I've wasted time myself, unfortunately.

    Posted by Mimi May 12, 09 04:22 PM
  1. Thought of another one. Reading a book all the way to the end even when I don't like it b/c the reviews said there was a good twist or a satisfying ending. Hate that. I did it recently with "A Reliable Wife"; the book got great reviews. I, on the other hand, thought it was terribly written with a lame plot, poorly developed characters - -- the whole collection of Bad Book Bits. And the ending was as obvious as it was unsatisfying. Yes, I'm still steamed about reading the whole thing. At least it was from the library and not the bookstore!

    Posted by Mimi May 12, 09 04:28 PM
  1. Miss Conduct!! Any argument deserves more than one perspective and you gave some great examples..... a good lesson on easing up on ourselves and taking the time to evaluate what activities are not a "waste of time".

    Posted by S.K. May 12, 09 04:59 PM
  1. I may not waste time on fb....but I certainly do kill a lot of time. I have over an hour til my last class starts, and I just finished all the work for it. Sure I could read a book, but why would I use valuable brain resources before class when I can kill time on FB, twitter, consumerist, etc?

    Posted by veronica May 12, 09 05:21 PM
  1. I like "beyond shelf life" description, it's a good way of describing a bad habit. Mostly I agree with Travelling Pschologist - that probably when you're doing something for an hour instead of 5 minutes, you might have needed some kind of a break or down time...but there's also the devious and subtle forms of habit that undermine you in the "beyond shelf life" sort of way. Movies can get this way for me in the winter. The more I watch, the more I convince myself I'm tired and just want to stay in and watch a movie, rather than do all the cool winter things I love to do. I stop and all of a sudden the need disappears. So...the more time you spend on whatever "not really time wasting" habit, the more habit-forming it can become, and we're all reaallllyyy good at convincing ourselves we need it that way. Does that make sense? That sort of makes OTGG's point that one might be avoiding something by filling your time with a habit, and talking up a good game to yourself that you needed it. But no one else can judge that for you - only you really know the truth!!

    Posted by verena May 12, 09 07:54 PM
  1. "Time wasting" can actually be useful to the creative mind. I actually did the dissertation thing. During my writing phase, I would clean my apartment until I realized I was procrastinating, and then I would send myself outside for a long walk. With daydreaming. But I came back from each walk knowing EXACTLY what I was going to work on/write that day, and how it needed to be organized. So that procrastination/time 'wasted'' was actually allowing my subconscious to attack the problem/s at hand. I've come from that experience with the belief that those who believe one should be 'on task' at all times during the workday--or who believe in extra-long workdays--are sadly mistaken. Productivity will suffer.

    Posted by Danskat May 12, 09 09:07 PM
  1. Mimi, you bring up a good point about getting "sucked in."

    Which is why I want to add that the irony doesn't escape me that someone who calls herself "OffTheGridGirl" is one who frequently throws her two cents into the cyber-comment ring. But here's the rub: Miss Conduct is the only online activity that I participate in. This isn't me trying to be holier-than-thou or anything. I've just chosen to limit my online extracurriculars given the endless options out there.

    I see technology and the internet as a big, oh-so-tempting buffet -- a cyber-feast of pizza, greasy cheeseburgers, homemade chocolate chip cookies, and tortellini alfredo. And perhaps I know I could easily gorge myself if I wanted to. That's the thing about computers, Blackberrys, and techno-gadgets in general -- you can binge on them and it'll be your dirty little secret or you can justify the overindulgence simply by looking at all the folks texting or logged into FB all around you. This is where I see possible issues with time-wasting. Unhealthy mindlessness bolstered by an "everyone's doing it" mentality.

    I equate it with the ultimate waste of time: mindless eating. We all know what this is -- when you're watching a movie at home and realize you've just downed a pint of ice cream, bag of chips, or sleeve (or two) of cookies. And just as you would try to avoid this type of activity for your health's (and waistline's) sake, I just try keep myself on a strict technology diet, for sanity's sake.

    Posted by OffTheGridGirl May 12, 09 09:26 PM
  1. Where do you draw the line? Facebook and all those other social media sites are simply more ways to communicate. Think about it: would you consider it a waste of time to have a face-to-face conversation with someone? OK, now how about exchanging USPS letters? (And telegrams, in olden days). Talking on the telephone? Emails? VOIP? Video-conferencing? Text messaging? And now social media. It's all a continuum of communication media, from lowest tech to high tech. But it's still all communication, whether it's one-way or two-way, whether it's real-time or delayed, whether you see a face or not. Everyone draws the line in a different place. What's important, it seems to me, is not how you communicate, but that you do communicate. The medium is NOT the message.

    Posted by diane May 12, 09 10:17 PM
  1. I find myself startled that I can get lost in a Sudoku and surface some minutes later with no concept that time has passed at all. Was it wasted time? Should I have been doing something else? Will I do the something else better because I faffed around with a Sudoku for uncounted minutes? it all just seems unknowable.

    The time and angst I spent on a year of untreated anxiety/depression that manifested itself as extreme hypochondria does seem wasted, except that now I consciously appreciate every alive moment that is not otherwise clouded by the deep-seated conviction that I have only some rather horrid months left to live. So even that year of misery may have been productively spent, depending on how "productively" is defined, and wondering if I could have avoided the year of misery and achieved the current state of grace without the whole dwelling in the seventh circle of hell thing. Who knows.

    Posted by Harriet Warmer May 13, 09 12:24 PM
  1. OTGG- "I see technology and the internet as a big, oh-so-tempting buffet -- a cyber-feast of pizza, greasy cheeseburgers, homemade chocolate chip cookies, and tortellini alfredo."

    No, it's more like a cache of granola bars, snack bags if chips and yogurt.
    Sure, you could make yourself a big breakfast or lunch, but why would you when you can just grab a granola bar, and get on with your day?
    Sure, I could call my friends and arrange a visit, but why would I when I can long onto FB on my phone, see what they're up to, shoot them a message, and then get on with my day?
    That doesn't mean I'll never make myself a big breakfast and never make time to see friends face-to-face, it's just a time saver on those days when I'm too busy to do those other things. Sure, you can over-indulge and become so busy that you're only eating granola bars and yogurt, but then that's unhealty, you must make time every once in a while to actually make a meal.

    Posted by Noel May 13, 09 01:48 PM
  1. Addictive behavior is a waste of time. It never satisfies; it crowds out more valuable pursuits; it distracts; and sooner or later, it damages. It is often minimized or concealed, and always rationalized.

    Denying that social media are addictive for a significant number of people, for a significant amount of the time, is not a credible position. It is a symptom.

    Posted by Marcus May 13, 09 09:25 PM
  1. "Sure, you can over-indulge and become so busy that you're only eating granola bars and yogurt, but then that's unhealty, you must make time every once in a while to actually make a meal."

    Noel, this is exactly what I'm getting at. Whether pizza or granola, it's the overindulgence that's unhealthy. And it seems too many are "quick snacking" their lives away. Especially the younger set. An entire generation is growing up with this can't-keep-my-fingers-off-the-keyboard mentality. And it's scary. Yes, there are pockets of people (young and old alike -- clearly many of whom read this blog) who know how to responsibly manage their use of technology. But it seems the majority of people out there aren't controlling themselves. They're frittering...or rather, Twittering their lives away.

    And I know it's not my responsibility to control someone else's actions. But like the maitre'd in "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" (I'm dating myself here), I often find myself thinking how "I weep for the future." Sigh...I know...a statement as old as time. But what can I do?? I'm an idealist. In a perfect world, everyone who know when it's time to put down the Blackberry and slowly back away from it for a while.

    Posted by OffTheGridGirl May 13, 09 09:28 PM
  1. Only, I think, if they work for us, or are children in our charge, and even then it doesn't pay to be too draconian about 'time on task.' Subordinate others still need a zone of privacy and autonomy, especially if they are young and still working things out.

    I try to remember that when parenting myself. Yes! it would have been good to vacuum the rug/drop a note to my pal/go to the gym instead of curling up with a crossword. I generally perceive time wasting retrospectively, that is, but at no time in my life have I been perfectly efficient; I can hope for progress, not perfection.

    So yes, I can and do waste my own time, but I try to remember that my executive self does not always know best, and need not always try to run the show. I just try to take note of how I feel after a period of absorbtion in something that seems like a detour, whether drugged and overstuffed, or curious and stimulated.

    Sometimes, progress would consist of doing less, not trying to multitask; but I am well acquainted with my monkey mind, and I'm not going to start Just Eating Breakfast Mindfully any time soon. My choice is to read Doonesbury and check out the pictures of my back-home neighbors at their anniversary party while taking on the oatmeal and orange juice.

    But I walk to work without earphones, catching the birds and the weather first-hand, so that's something. We do what we can.

    Posted by Carolyn, Cambridge May 14, 09 07:43 AM
  1. OTGG- But I don't know anyone who only FBs or Twitters as opposed to calling people or seeing friends. Actually, it seems those that use FB and Twitter the most are the ones who most often post pictures and send updates that they are getting together with their friends.
    Your concern is that people are forfeiting a real social life to maintain their online social life. That's more of an issue for folks using Second Life and WOW.
    I also question your feeling that FB and Twitter is somehow on par with gorging on greasy fast food. I don't see that it's unhealthy.
    How is communicating with friends and family unhealthy? Isn't communication, itself, healthy? It has no negative side effects, it doesn't prevent me from seeing these people in real life.
    Using FB is like having a car. It's more convenient to use it when trying to see soemone who's far away, but if my friedn lives next door, I'm not going to drive there, I'm going to go see her. Just as if my friend lives next door, I'm going to go see her, I'm not going to FB her.

    Posted by Noel May 14, 09 02:00 PM
  1. I want to address the idea of using technology to distract ourselves from everyday existence, or to waste time that supposedly could be spent on more meaningful human connection. I think it's important to remember that two people could use the exact same technology in vastly different ways, and with different goals.

    To give an example, I'm a college student who transferred to a new school in January. I can understand that facebook may feel like a waste of time to some (it's felt like that to me at some points in my life), but to me it's been an invaluable social tool. As a midyear transfer, I had to work hard to meet new people and find interesting activities on campus, and facebook was a huge help. I think facebook really helps to reinforce and formalize casual social connections. Take invitations, for instance - when I first got to my school, there was no one who knew me well enough to call me up personally and invite me to a party or event. That takes a lot of initiative and forethought that wouldn't have been reasonable to expect of people I just met. But once I made some facebook friends, it was relatively easy for people to just click my name and add me to an event list, with the same result - I got to go out and meet more people. Instead of detracting from time I could spend with friends, facebook made it easier for me to make friends to spend time with.

    I use twitter in a similar way - to connect more easily with newer friends that I want to know better (and to flirt with a new crush, using the power of brief witty banter.) I'm really thankful for facebook, actually - it would have taken me a lot longer to make friends without it. I'm with Miss Conduct - we can all use technology for better or worse in our own lives.

    Posted by Alex May 14, 09 02:20 PM
About Miss Conduct
Welcome to Miss Conduct’s blog, a place where the popular Boston Globe Magazine columnist Robin Abrahams and her readers share etiquette tips, unravel social conundrums, and gossip about social behavior in pop culture and the news. Have a question of your own? Ask Robin using this form or by emailing her at

Who is Miss Conduct?

Robin Abrahamswrites the weekly "Miss Conduct" column for The Boston Globe Magazine and is the author of Miss Conduct's Mind over Manners. Robin has a PhD in psychology from Boston University and also works as a research associate at Harvard Business School. Her column is informed by her experience as a theater publicist, organizational-change communications manager, editor, stand-up comedian, and professor of psychology and English. She lives in Cambridge with her husband Marc Abrahams, the founder of the Ig Nobel Prizes, and their socially challenged but charismatic dog, Milo.

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