'Don't Post That!': The New Networking Etiquette 101

By Barbara Ortutay, AP Technology Writer

Stephanie Kahn wanted to bask in her engagement for a few hours before diving into the task of calling aunts, uncles and good friends with the big news. And even before she could call them, she had a surprise party to attend, one that her fiance had set up for their parents and her "closest group of girlfriends."

That party was when Kahn lost control of her news. Some of the guests took photos and were "uploading them on Facebook before I could even post anything," Kahn said from Smyrna, Ga., where she lives. "Of course the next morning I get a couple of calls, text messages from people I didn't call. They found out on Facebook. I think some people were a little upset."

In an age in which instant news and constant life streams from Facebook and Twitter change the way we communicate, the rules of etiquette surrounding these interactions are still evolving.

What happens when I expected a phone call about something and read about it in a status update instead? What's the polite response to a distant friend posting bad news on Facebook? What to do with sensitive information?

Making matters trickier, good etiquette on Facebook might not apply on Twitter or in an e-mail. These days, milestones like marriage, pregnancy, breakups and divorce are being described over more forms of communications than ever.

"Because it's so new, there is sort of a gray area of what the manners are," said Brian McGee, a 33-year-old father-to-be in Charlotte, N.C.

He'd just gotten his first BlackBerry when he and his wife were driving to a doctor's appointment to learn the baby's sex. He had the BlackBerry out and was thumbing something.

"I was like, 'What are you doing?' recalled his wife, Megan Gelaburt-McGee. "He was posting that we were on the way to the doctor's office to find out the baby's sex. I said, 'Don't post that!'"

She said she wanted to tell her close friends the baby's gender personally, though she didn't mean an in-person visit. She didn't even mean a phone call. Instead, she drew the universal female symbol on her belly, had a friend take a photo and sent it in an e-mail to as many as 20 people: cousins, aunts and uncles, bridesmaids, friends she'd known for a very long time.

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