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Netiquette Question: IMs from Old Acquaintances - Accept or Not?

 

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Say you worked with someone 12 years ago.  You were friendly in the workplace, chatted during lunch, but didn't socialize after work. Then, one day, many years later, out of the blue, an instant message from that person pops up on our screen.  

 

"Hey, Rik, it's so-and-so..." it begins.

You, hesitate for a moment, then click "ignore."

This has happened to me a few times with old acquaintances: folks from my old church, high school, college and previous jobs.  I routinely ignore them, because I feel just kind of awkward about it.  I think to myself, why is this person contacting me now, and in this fashion?  What do they want?  Why aren't they emailing me?  

When I have replied, I find myself having to describe over IM what I've been doing for the past ten years to someone I wasn't that close to to begin with.  Often I find out that the person has had some life transition and wants to re-connect with people in their past life -- lost a job, a failed marriage, moved to a new city, etc.  So I get drawn into some drama.

Is this akin to running into the person at the supermarket and having a quick conversation?  Or someone showing up on your doorstep?  

What do you think?  And what do you do?

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