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Miss conduct

Greetings for all?

The word on Jews sending out Christmas cards, plus health-warning e-mails.

By Robin Abrahams
December 5, 2010

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I am Jewish. Am I obligated to send Christmas cards to my non-Jewish friends? Every year I receive cards from people I like quite a bit, some of whom I see on a regular basis. My policy has been to send holiday cards only to folks with whom I am not in regular contact, but my Christian friends send me cards regardless. I don’t really enjoy sending cards. ANONYMOUS/Belmont

You aren’t obligated to send Christmas cards to everyone who sends you one, or to anyone at all, for that matter. I’m not letting you off the hook because you’re Jewish, either: That’s really how it works. Some folks find cards a good way of keeping in touch and updating their friends and family address book every year, while for others sending cards feels like an annoying office task. If you’re one of the latter group, don’t send cards. It’s expensive and time-consuming and environmentally unfriendly. (Don’t tell people that, obviously; stick with your nice, neutral “I’m not a card person.”)

Holiday season or not, I’m a firm believer that people should be generous in their own ways, and not worry too much about exact quid pro quo. Some people are card people or birthday remembers or supportive phone callers. Other people will review your resume or help you prep for an interview or presentation. Others will look after your pets while you’re gone or bring beautiful souvenirs back from their travels or come early when you’re having a party to help you get ready. The best way to a happy social life is to appreciate your friends for what they can give, and give back what you can.

I sent an e-mail with a health warning to a group of friends, and one sent a “reply all” with a Snopes.com reference stating the anecdote used in the warning cannot be proven. He’s done this three times over the past year. With e-mails about safety or health that make sense and are logical, I am more concerned about letting friends know about the issue, even if the interest-getting anecdote cannot be proven, and I trust they can make up their own minds. In my opinion, the proper etiquette would be for him to reply only to me with his information, giving me the option of whether I think it is worthy of getting back to my contact list. I have decided not to send him any more e-mails containing the e-mail addresses of my other friends. Am I too sensitive, or is he guilty of rude behavior? A.K. / Norfolk

Your friend isn’t guilty of rude behavior; you are. You are the one who is spamming friends with unverified scare e-mails. Surely, you are aware that many things that are not true “make sense and are logical” on the surface, right? Letting people make up their own minds is indeed a virtue but shouldn’t be invoked as an excuse not to do proper due diligence yourself before bothering people with alarming anecdotes and advice they haven’t asked for. In addition, if your friend can “reply all,” you must be putting e-mail addresses in the “To” or “CC” field. If one must mass e-mail friends, send the e-mail to one’s self and put the addresses in the BCC field.

Your Snoping friend is fully within his rights to respond as he did. For one thing, you are the one who made the recipient list public. For another, he is supplying relevant information on a topic you claim to want to educate people about. If you want people to make up their own minds, shouldn’t you want them to get as many facts as possible? I don’t see where he has any obligation to have his sources deemed worthy by you before he disseminates them.

I daresay you have, however, hit upon a solution that will satisfy both of you: leaving him off your list.

Miss Conduct is Robin Abrahams, a Cambridge-based writer with a PhD in psychology. Write to missconduct@globe.com. Read more of Miss Conduct’s wit and wisdom at boston.com/missconduct. Get advice live every first and third Wednesday, noon to 1 p.m., at boston.com.

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