Emily Post

Their intent may be to display witty Twitter hashtags, impressive food arrangements and pictures of cute kids, but the effect is to drive you nuts! A new survey has mapped out which online behaviors irritate us most. Although Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are sources of much entertainment and information, the coin has a flipside: For many, they also are a source for intense annoyance.

The number one complaint about Facebook is the constant updating about nothing, like This morning, I had a sandwich for breakfast. So, who cares? Other things that annoy many include bragging, complaining, spelling errors and the constant look-at-my-cute-kids picture posts.

On Instagram, the most maddening practice is the ubiquitous pictures of every day food, and you probably know at least one person who felt like throwing their cell phones at the wall if they have to see one more picture of ‘my dinner last night.’ Although some may be inspired by someone else’s food selections, others are just peeved.

What about Twitters hashtags? The # symbol, used to mark keywords or topics in a tweet, was created organically by Twitter users as a way to categorize messages. Ever since Twitter broke onto the scene about four years ago, the pound signs have spread all over the online world, in spite of not filling any other function than marking some supposedly clever double-meaning or laconic understatement from the sender.

So what to do to lower the level of irritation?

Although Emily Post has been gone for more than half a century, her name is synonymous with etiquette. To say that today’s world is radically different from the one she inhabited is obviously a gross understatement. However, many people honor her principles and it has been suggested that the spirit of Emily Post should be alive in e-mail, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and many other online media.

So what characterized a good Emily Post-compatible person in the past and how is that applicable in today’s world?

The Emily Post Conversationalist is thoughtful, listens, doesn’t interrupt (or if forced to interrupt, apologizes), gives personal space and exhibits an unambiguous body language.

The Emily Post Letter Writer announces who he/she is and makes sure that the letter includes both good and bad news, and responds to questions asked in a previous letter. The good Letter Writer also avoids the woe-is-me letters, along with the tell-all, gossip and anger-filled letters.

These are good rules for electronic writing, as well.

Dos and Don’ts for Emails:

- Respond promptly. Always check spelling.

- Remember, grammar and punctuation matter!

- Write as if everyone will eventually read your email.

- Subject line should be topic-appropriate.

- Avoid large attachments.

- Avoid dry humor and sarcasm. Because it’s email and conversation, neither dry humor nor sarcasm (most of the time) simply don’t work. Save your clever puns for when you meet in person.

- Avoid emoticons—unless you are 10, and then it’s OK.

- Avoid using ALL CAPS (even for emphasis), this is known as on-line screaming.

Dos and Don’ts for Smart Phones:

- Use vibrate mode for all public situations.

- Turn off in lots of situations.

- Love the one you’re with - isn’t he or she more important than the person calling?

- If you must take the call, step out - we aren’t interested in your call.

- Use full words and sentences. You probably have seen (and have been annoyed) by something like this: U could c msg l8r LOL!

Dos and Don’ts for Social Media:

- Properly introduce yourself.

- No spamming!

- Avoid being an egomaniac—it’s all public!

- Online should mimic real relationships.

- Don’t use abbreviations, if possible. Who isn’t tired of seeing LOL, OMG, IMO and the rest?

If you want to learn more about Emily Post, I suggest you read Emily Post: Daughter of the Gilded Age, Mistress of American Manners by Laura Claridge.


Longtime editor, writer and publisher Richard Gavatin is owner of IMS, Inc. (ims-stlouis.com), a computer consulting company that specializes in the support and customization of accounting software.

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