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Web-based brush-offs a bit easier

The era of social networks has brought to the relatively clear-cut world of etiquette a new set of questions. For instance, when is it OK to "defriend" someone from Facebook?

Just as online services such as Facebook and Twitter have caused us to rethink what we mean by "friend," now we struggle with the issue of defriending -- the act of removing someone from your social network. Perhaps it's that someone who clutters your page with endless updates on their daily routine or maybe someone you just don't care for.

Delete away, says Jaqueline Whitmore, etiquette consultant and author of "Business Class: Etiquette Essentials for Success at Work."

Obscene posts are the main offense that will get you defriended from Whitmore's page. But endless and inane posts about what you're eating for lunch, etc., also get you removed from her friends list. The opposite end of the spectrum -- inactivity -- doesn't bother her.

"I don't defriend anyone because they're just sitting there," she says. "They may be busy, or they may not have the techno-savvy."

Just as she "friends" folks she doesn't know all that well, she feels free to drop them when necessary. There's no need to notify them of their newly defriended status. Usually, she says, they won't even notice.

Cindy Grosso, another business etiquette consultant, is a more moderate user of social networks. When she does use them, it's more for business purposes. One way to prevent the need to defriend folks is not to friend them in the first place.

"I'm a big fan of limiting your friend list to people you know," she says.

Nonetheless, the "X" button still comes in handy for Grosso.

For instance, people using Facebook to promote their business a little too adamantly get the boot.

As we're still finding our social network manners, even etiquette experts can act a little hasty. At one point, exhausted of a friend's constant and mundane updates, Whitmore dropped her from the list of people she followed on Twitter. To Whitmore's surprise, her friend realized she had been dropped and mentioned it the next time they saw each other. Although her friend tried to be casual about it, Whitmore "got a sense" that her friend's feelings were a little hurt.

She added her back to the list. As in real life, you sometimes just have to grin and bear it when it comes to your chattier friends.

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