by Anna Post
Last week I shared with you an op-ed from The New York Times by Rand Richards Cooper, It's My Party, and You Have to Answer, bemoaning the online demise of the RSVP--or least, of it's use. His op-ed received so many letters to the editor that the Times decided to share a selection of them: R.S.V.P.: They Responded, en masse.
One in particular struck me for its sheer laziness of reasoning:
To the Editor:
Rand Richards Cooper asks why nobody R.S.V.P.’s to online invitations. Perhaps we have forgotten what an invitation really is.
As a college student, I am routinely sent Facebook “invitations” to all sorts of campus events: plays, speakers, parties and so on. The events’ sponsors simply send a message to every one of their Facebook friends on campus to let them know of it. They are not requesting the pleasure of my or anyone else’s company; they are advertising their event, and perhaps hoping to get an approximate head count into the bargain.
What is more, if you do not actively remove yourself from the guest list of one of these invitations, you are likely to receive several follow-up messages reminding you to attend something you have no interest in whatsoever.
Is it all that surprising that we don’t think to R.S.V.P. anymore, even when a real invitation comes along?
Wynnewood, Pa., March 15, 2010
She poses a good question, and I share her annoyance with advertisement and promotion on Facebook disguised as invitations. However, this young woman, who is in college and intelligent and motivated enough to write a response to The New York Times, admits she knows the difference between the kind you need to reply to ("real invitations", as she puts it) and the kind you don't (Facebook event spam).
And yet she suggests that in the face of knowing the difference, she doesn't bother. Please. Facebook fatigue is no excuse for lazy rudeness. Given you're aware of the distinction, let's try and make an effort for the rare "real" invitation you do get. To quote Benjamin Disraeli, "Circumstances are beyond human control, but our conduct is in our own power."
I find this response to Mr. Cooper's article far more to the point (sadly), and Mr. Disraeli's quote still the best medicine for countering it:
To the Editor:
Rand Richards Cooper describes a sad fact of modern life. The real reason for this is that improvements in communications have given us the illusion of choice and flexibility.
When an invitation is received, a calculation occurs as to whether or not the event in question is more compelling than possible future alternatives, and an R.S.V.P. is never sent, in order to keep one’s options open.
Unfortunately for Mr. Cooper, 22 of his friends thought they might have something better to do and were afraid to commit.
Funny how much less we communicate with one another now that it is easy!
Geneva, March 16, 2010