The Tangential Thinker

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I was reading the news the other day and there was a story about a boy band singer from the ‘90s who had, sadly, lost his battle with cancer. Toward the end of the posting there was a sentence that caught my eye: Thousands of fans tweeted their condolences. There’s something you don’t hear every day, and the concept sparked quite a debate. Apparently technology is moving faster than etiquette. Or is it?

    Miss Manners and Emily Post both have websites. Emily Post has a twitter feed and a blog, and the site has oh-so-cleverly coined the phrase ‘etipedia’ to describe their online etiquette encyclopedia. Ms. Post thinks it’s OK to e-mail a condolence if you were informed of the passing by the same method…with a few caveats. Fill in the subject line, don’t hit ‘reply all’ and never type in all caps—it’s the cyber version of shouting. DUDE, SO SORRY TO HEAR ABOUT YOUR GRANDFATHER. It does come across as emphatic…bordering on violent.

    I’ve been e-vited to a wedding. Is that tacky or green? The e-vite website offers a wedding option, although they seem more focused on the baby shower and Bunco night. In a couple of years, there may be no paper invitations at all. Why stop there? The entire wedding could take place in cyberspace. We could witness the ceremony via webcam and throw virtual rice while snacking on a Hot Pocket in the comfort of our homes.

    Finally, I come to the Everest of e-tiquette: the thank-you note. In the course of my life I will have (or more accurately should have) written thousands of thank-you notes—from childhood thank-yous for grandparents and classmates to engagement and wedding gift thank-yous. I once thanked someone for a gift basket they sent me as a thank-you—I actually wondered if they would then thank me for the note and the cycle might never end.

    Oddly, while it seems perfectly within the bounds of propriety to text an RSVP or tweet a condolence, the thank-you note, for the most part, remains in ink-and-paper form. A thank-you e-mail is warranted after a job interview, but that’s about it. It’s puzzling. Maybe Grandma and Grandpa want to see little Billy’s penmanship. Maybe we need to hold the note in our hands to truly feel thanked for something. Maybe people feel that if they spent time and money to get someone a gift, that person could go to a little more trouble than clacking on a few keys and hitting ‘send.’

    For whatever reason, people still like their thank-you notes the old fashioned way, snail mail. My mother, as a thoughtful reminder, even gives Cranky, Whiny and Punch (and me) stationery for that very purpose. Which reminds me, I need to thank her for that. 

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