Manners makeover

In a digital world, do manners need a makeover? I say yes.

I don't claim to be an etiquette expert, but here are a few of my pet peeves and what the experts have to say about them.

Let's start with tech etiquette. I know I’ll get a lot of flack for this, but I abhor the use of electronics -- whether it be a cell phone, smart phone or BlackBerry -- during social gatherings or in public places within earshot of others. In my book, there are some exceptions. These include, but are not limited to: calling 911, checking on the welfare of a loved one, or receiving good news from a loved one -- like “it’s a boy,” responding to time-sensitive work issues or notifying someone if you’re going to be late or have to cancel an engagement. 

"The most important manner to remember when it comes to technology is this: be aware of how your use of technology impacts those around you," says manners maven Emily Post. Simply stated, be polite. Now in its 18th edition Emily Post's Etiquette covers how to use your cell phone or smart phone politely, with special tips on texting and emailing. She also covers tattoos and technology in the work place. Can you show your tats and piercings at work? I have the book and would be happy to provide you with her answer if you ask for it in the comments section.

Most of you already know that I am social media shy. Again, I know I’m in the minority here, but it’s just not cool to post photos on a Facebook page -- or a blog for that matter -- without getting permission. “Do ask before you post pictures from a party whether anyone minds having them on Facebook,” advises Henry Alford in his book Would it Kill You to Stop Doing That? A Modern Guide to Manners.

Here are a few of his other tips for restoring civility in the age of constant connectivity along with my commentary:
  • Don’t answer a telephone call with an e-mail. Or an e-mail with a text message. Or a text with a Facebook message. In the communication hierarchy, you generally want to match the level of intimacy or move up the hierarchy -- a move down can look like you’re avoiding the person.
Good to know. My communication hierarchy needs a re org.
  • Don’t text -- or forget to turn off your ringer -- at the movie theater no matter how strong the urge to LOL. If you’re perpetually rattled by the glowing phone screens of others texting during movies, do bring a tiny penlight to shine on them. It’s more discreet than shushing but still delivers a wallop of social shame.
I'm a moviegoer -- love this tip! And, I can think of many other situations when I could use the shine of shame. I'm getting one.

Moving on. 'Tis the season for gift giving, which leads me to my next peeve – regifting. In case you’re not familiar with the concept:
Regifting or regiving is the act of taking a gift that has been received and giving it to somebody else, sometimes in the guise of a new gift. -- Wickipedia
Interesting side note: The concept became popularized by a Seinfeld episode in which Elaine calls Dr. Tim Whatley a “regifter” after he gives Jerry a label-maker that was originally given to Whatley by Elaine. Anyone remember this episode?

Is regifting rude or resourceful? I say rude. But, let’s see what some etiquette experts have to say on the matter: 
Kim Izzo, etiquette columnist: Well I hate to say it, but, yes, it is rude. It seems like a twisted form of recycling. You can absolutely pass it on, but be open about it. Do it in the moment. Don't reroute it! I would just never pretend that I bought something. 

Ceri Marsh, etiquette columnist: It's not just rude, it's kind of tacky! I would rather see you give it to charity because then you're actually doing some good, not taking credit for having done something that you didn't. But really, just don't do it. It doesn't honor the thought behind the gift. 

E. Jean Carroll, Elle magazine advice columnist: I love the concept of regifting -- I think we should do it with our men! When we get tired of our boyfriend, give him to a girlfriend. Don't let a good man go to waste! (Love this!)

Other experts -- including Emily -- give a nod to regifting depending on the circumstance. 

I have many other peeves, but I’ll stop here. What are your etiquette peeves? Just for fun, please answer my anonymous "regifting" poll on the top right of this blog page. You must click onto the blog site to enter or post a comment. You can not do it from the e-mail text.


  1. Disagree! Regifting is a great option. It doesn't mean you didn't like something, it just means you think someone else would like it even MORE. But be clever about it, obvs.

    1. As you can see, that's what Emily suggests. My moral dilemma is with pretending you you bought the gift for the recipient when if fact it came out of your regifting closet.

  2. What about donating? Betsey's birthday is tomorrow and she got a very nice gift from her godfather (who lives in another country), but it's a toy kitchen and we have two of them. I'm planning to donate it because I don't want to return it and I thought it would be a nice Christmas gift for some little girl...or boy! What do you think?

    1. That's what I would do. You could donate it to a Season of Giving. I'll let you know the drop off dates.

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. I might go with "Do not text, tweet, email, skype, IM or otherwise use your smart phone / cell phone / dumb phone in public. Period. No exceptions."


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