Ask Natalie: Asking Friends to Fill out An Online Form to Hang out Is Rude, Right?

If you really cared, you'd call. Or email. Or follow my other clever suggestions to stay out of Personal Interaction Hell.
Publish date:
July 21, 2011
internet, netiquette, ask natalie, doodle

Hey Natalie,

So a friend of mine who lives in France is staying in New York for a few weeks. We've been emailing back and forth about when we'd both be free to meet up. Then yesterday I got this group email from him saying that he would love to see me and all of his other friends in the city and that he would like us all to fill out a Doodle Poll so he can have our availability. I felt like this was kinda rude. Why couldn't he just respond to the email I sent him two weeks ago that outlined my availability? Am I wrong to think that doodle polls should only be used for business related stuff and not personal things like visiting friends over the summer? Is he just being practical?


Samantha, before I answer your question, you should know that even though I had a semi-Southern upbringing, I ain't a broad who knows a heckuva lot about manners, but I'll put on my finest white gloves and take a stab at dishing out some netiquette lessons.

First, I will say that I've had great success with Doodle-like services when trying to corral a large group into committing to a date for a single event. I like to avoid some of those last-minute "Oh, I wish I could make it, but my dog is working late that night"-type excuses for my book club or a Sunday morning dim-sum binge. It forces people to commit to timeslots, and, if you're feeling prickly, you can call them out on it later when they try to back out.

I don't think that's what our Frenchman is going for here: He's just meeting up casually with friends, and he'd like to use Doodle to allow his friends to fill his calendar for him. All this after you guys had already exchanged emails, which is legal social tender in my book, so you've practically written a soft contract. You're right. I agree that this feels rude. I'm going to go draw for a bit to express my feelings.

Personal Interaction Scale: Friend Edition, or Avoid Being An Asshole to Your Friends with This Handy Diagram!

Yes, friends, I've taken the time to draw up a rudimentary scale to grossly simplify our social interactions online. Do note that each notch indicates an exponential, not linear, difference. And, doodle you see that? Email is the fourth notch from "Personal" interaction, and Doodle is the third from the bottom. Not so good among friends. Generally, I stick to only the top of the scale for the people closest to me, like my family and my bestest of best friends, and hover in the middle for friend-friends.

This scale also applies to people you admire but don't know In Real Life: The most personal thing you should do is call/Skype/Facetime/Google Hangout, with email after that. Follow the chain downward if you don't know how to reach them. Linked In messages from strangers and connections I accepted are so deathly ice-cold. It's the place where I'm connected to people I'm associated with on a technicality, and it's certainly not my chosen social circle. It's teeming with trolling recruiters, though I have yet to meet someone who found a job through this network seemingly dedicated to humblebragging.

Though the flames of my Impersonal Interaction Hell don't quite lick Doodle, it comes damn close. The service cuts out that lovably fun opportunity of someone calling or emailing you, asking you to do something fun on X day. I'm much more likely to make myself available to hang out if they're taking the effort to call me or send me an email. Especially if he indicates that it would only be the two of us. Especially if he's cute and especially if I'm single. Not saying this guy is using Doodle to ask you out or anything, but I like to keep my possibilities open, and Doodle writes "You Are Not Getting Laid" in neon to me.

So, practically speaking, you should take the high road and assume that the plans that you and Frenchie made over email override everything else. That Doodle ish is for friends he cares about much less than you, and he already took the spam-filter risk so there's a chance some people won't see it at all. Forward this post to him and expect a mix-tape in the mail.