The Internet is full of stalkers, but not all of them are necessarily out to hurt you. Many of us lurk around, plugging names of old acquaintances into a search engine and feeling...

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The Internet is full of stalkers, but not all of them are necessarily out to hurt you. Many of us lurk around, plugging names of old acquaintances into a search engine and feeling a shot of glee when we find out something substantial.

And while assembling accurate statistics is impossible, it’s darn near certain that most of the people who find an old friend’s online address don’t make themselves known.

Rather, we lie in wait, with the knowledge that we can always reopen this particular door in the future, presumably when we have something pithy to say.

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Or that’s what I thought. I took the opportunity of the holiday to send out a bunch of messages to the long-lost, and the results were pretty underwhelming. In the first place, the notion that you can write these folks at any time and get a quick answer is fallacious. Many of the addresses you find online are closed down with no forwarding information supplied.

Furthermore, it is likely that your correspondents’ receptivity to a blast from the past won’t coincide with your own. I haven’t responded to a few of these letters for various reasons. Some people I didn’t want to talk to then and some I will never want to interact with.

But in all cases it was rude of me to not supply an answer. If someone takes the trouble to reach out to you from the past, you at the very least owe them a note relating how many children you have.

Perhaps my poor average is part of some kind of cosmic payback. This creates a modern equation: If A ignores B, then C will ignore A, even if A cares more for C than B. Especially if that’s the case. Certainly if A ignores B today, B will ignore A in the future.

Perhaps the truth is a bit simpler. People stay in touch with others out of choice, and let go of those connections because they are no longer compelling. And you are never as well-liked as you think you are.

Or maybe it has to do with the content. My correspondents may find “how are you after all these years; my wife just died” too much of a downer.

I shouldn’t complain. Someone who answers immediately will cause a whole new set of e-mail etiquette problems. If they write back right away, do I need to answer as quickly? Does the first one to say, “I like you, but don’t want to write you every day,” get a medal for honesty or a demerit for rudeness?

This year, I resolve to send more notes in an effort to turn old friends into new. And I also resolve to answer anyone who sends me a similar missive. Although maybe not immediately.

If you have questions or suggestions for Charles Bermant, you can contact him by e-mail at cbermant@seattletimes.com. Type Inbox in the subject field. More columns at www.seattletimes.com/columnists.