Miss Manners stock photo

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I’m connected to many friends and acquaintances on social media. For my birthday, well over a hundred people posted their wishes publicly on my page.

While I would prefer more personal, private messages (which close friends indeed sent), I do appreciate the kindness, and hence make it a point to respond to every posted message with a brief, individual reply.

However, I noticed that this approach is fairly uncommon: Most people simply share a generic “Thanks, everyone, for all your wishes” post on their page shortly after the event. As a sender of wishes to others, I would find that disappointingly generic and rather impersonal.

What is the perfect way to thank a large group of people for their birthday wishes on social media?

GENTLE READER: One writes thank-you letters, in part, to recognize and reciprocate the effort exerted by a gift giver.

But although Miss Manners, like you, prefers good manners to efficiency, she recognizes that requiring an individual response to every low-exertion expression of goodwill in such a situation would crush the festive spirit of even the most committed birthday girl. Direct felicitations should be acknowledged, but the public nature of the greetings you describe allows for a group response.

This is a minimum standard. While there is no ban on your responding individually to each “Happy bday Cindi!!!!”, doing so 100 times in a public way may convey an impression of self-absorption rather than gratitude.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: Is it acceptable for visiting grown children to take food from their parents’ fridge without asking? Or is it more appropriate to ask, “May I take such-and-such?”

GENTLE READER: Likely, Justin and Jenna — who now have children of their own — fondly remember helping themselves to cheese slices while doing algebra homework. What their parents remember is their annoyance at finding empty wrappers on the living room carpet.

But now those children are guests — privileged ones, but no longer residents — so they should ask. Fond parents may wish to preempt this with a standing offer to help themselves, which fond children should reciprocate by periodically restocking the refrigerator.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: My wife has had a very dear friend for many years. This friend’s son, of some age himself, was recently contacted by a child who said that he was his birth father.

How does one inform close friends and associates of this new addition to his family? The grandmother happens to be thrilled that she has a new youngster to dote on and to spoil.

GENTLE READER: With associates, Miss Manners recommends a bold approach: that your wife’s friend introduce him as what he is — her son’s son from a previous relationship — while acting as though it is only she, not the father, with whom the boy was not previously acquainted.

Friends and family will require a less ambiguous explanation.

Please send your questions to Miss Manners at http://missmanners.com; to her email, dearmissmanners@gmail.com; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.