Archive for the 'Technology' Category

Maybe This Time: Facebook Invitations

All things considered, Facebook is a wonderful innovation. Like it or loathe it, it will certainly be around for quite some time yet. It has set itself up as a social hub: we can see photos of ourselves and our friends, we can email our friends, we can play games with them, we can instant-message them, we can send them gifts (although if any friend of mine ever sent an electronic gift – or e-card, for that matter – I’d strike them out of my address book), and we can organise events through Facebook. It’s this last one that can easily rile me.

For the benefit of non-Facebook users, let me quickly explain what exactly happens. Any user can invite friends to an event; on the event page they can list the time, place, date, and any other instructions for guests. Invited guests will see the invitation to said event when they log into their Facebook profile. Guests are then given three options as to how they wish to reply: Attending, Not Attending, or Maybe Attending. It is this last one that drives me mad.

I used to send out nice stiff white card invitations to my guests for my parties, but due to the cost of doing them for every party and the fact that a majority of modern guests wouldn’t know what on earth to do with such an invitation, I decided to concede and use Facebook to invite people to my events. To be fair, it works a treat. But when I have guests that respond that they ‘maybe attending’ I hit the roof. In my opinion, you are either attending or you are not. Called me old fashioned but when I am invited to an event I get out my diary, see if I am doing anything already on that date and if I am not, then I respond saying I can do; if I am busy, I respond saying I unfortunately cannot. This conditional clause of ‘maybe’ seems to be designed for the socially far-too-busy. Some of my guests (who have subsequently been struck off my party guest-list) put ‘maybe’ because they are clearly thinking ‘well, I shall go if I don’t have anything else better to do that night’, which is just rude.

People should make the effort, and decide whether they are going or not instead of floundering around in this new middle ground. If a host were going to the effort of putting on a party (probably with food and drink) for guests then said host would quite like to know for how many people they are catering.

You can see this clearly winds me up, and I do wish Facebook would remove the function. It is intrinsically bad mannered.

I am off for a lie down now.

William Hanson
Tutor, The English Manner

The Top 5 Email Etiquette Faux Pas

E-mailMost of us will use email every day and this has led to a lapse in common sense and manners. Here are the top 5 faux pas when using email.

Hello! If you’ve never met the person you are emailing, starting the email with ‘Hello, Jack’ or ‘Hi Jill!’ is never acceptable and irritates more people than others may think

Spelling Emails are designed to be a quick way for us to communicate but that doesn’t mean that we are given an excuse to look ill-educated by sloppy spelling, especially when emailing clients or people who are not our friends or family (but you should practise using good spelling on them, too!)

Name-check When we see an email such as ‘alex.jones@…’ most of us will probably assume that Alex is a man. An increasing number of people are getting gender-confused on email. Always best to double-check. Telephone the company and ask before sending the email, or ask your colleagues who may have dealt with he/she before. Never start an email (or letter) with ‘Dear Jack Smith’. Find out the title in advance

Attachments ‘Please find attached’. If you say something is attached, make sure it is! Double-check everything before hitting the send button.

Ignoring emails If you get an email from a legitimate person, it’s common courtesy (although not common enough) to acknowledge it. Even if you’re the busiest person in the world, send back a response reassuring the sender you’ve got the email but will deal with it at a later date. This will save them worrying that their email is broken

William Hanson
Tutor, The English Manner

Blackberries: Don’t be a Gooseberry

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You can hardly go anywhere without seeing something to do with a BlackBerry (which, for the uninitiated, is the king of all Personal Digital Assistants). People up and down the country simply must have one – a new status symbol? These often-tiny little things have the ability to send and receive emails, text messages, telephone calls, as well as update our Twitter and Facebook pages. Our whole world can be condensed into something no heavier than 88 grams.

Yet whilst these devices can be a blessing in certain situations, it’s vital that we don’t forget our manners. We can sometimes get so focused on who we’re communicating with digitally through our PDAs, we forget those slightly nearer to us.

The usual rules of mobile telephone etiquette apply with BlackBerries but there are perhaps a few more rules to add for these demi-gods.

When you have a face-to-face meeting, whether it be with one person or a whole group, turn your device to vibrate: don’t have it sitting on the normal (loud) setting so that it pings, flashes and shakes every time you get an email or text. People often think that it’s a popularity contest. It’s not. Focus on who is in front of you in real life.

Never place your BlackBerry on any surface during a meeting or lunch appointment, even if it’s turned to silent. The BlackBerry has a data light, which will flash every time data is being transferred. This can be very off-putting to others and you will no doubt be distracted too. Out of sight is out of mind.

After a day’s work, don’t go back home to your family or friends and sit constantly on your device, unless it’s vital. We have to switch off sometimes and it can make loved ones feel devalued if your conversation dries up with them but seems to flourish on your BlackBerry.

BlackBerries can be wonderful sources of communication and entertainment but whilst we may revel in their multiple features, others probably won’t. Take care to think about others before using your device. Of course, if there’s no one around…

William Hanson
Tutor, The English Manner

Steppin’ Out With My Baby

bearI’m a realist and enthusiastic proponent of adapting traditional rules of etiquette to the way we live today but there are some traditions I am loathe to give up.  While I send and receive well over 100 emails a week, I still turn to my copper-engraved writing paper and fountain pen for those occasions when an email just won’t do: thank you letters, mostly, letters of condolence or congratulations, that sort of thing. So it was with mixed emotions that I received an email announcing the birth of my nephew and wife’s new child along with a beautiful photo of the happy family embedded within the message. They live thousands of miles away and I didn’t even know they were expecting.  It took me aback. Was this email, already getting pushed farther and farther down in my inbox, supposed to trigger an engraved sterling baby gift? Was I expected to pen a note offering congratulations? Would a proper letter in response to their email possibly embarrass them? Should I simply send an email? Would there be an “official” announcement in due course, a beautifully engraved card with a small ribbon (from Dempsey and Carrol, America’s finest printers), a keepsake for all time. (I hope there won’t be one of those rather boring little cards listing the baby’s weight and length and including a hospital picture of a scrunched up crying baby.)  A long-deceased great-aunt’s voice echoed in my head: “Is this the way things are done nowadays?”

My conversion took about five minutes. My worries about the medium were soon over-whelmed by the message, the touching photograph (all personal prejudices aside, it was stunning), the fact that they included me in the distribution, included me in their life, in their own way. I will send my heartfelt congratulations and best wishes (written with my fountain pen on my personal stationery) and I will send an engraved sterling baby gift, too. Perhaps they will think me old-fashioned.  Maybe I’ll send an email, also.

John Robertson
Tutor, The English Manner

Flying Into the Facebook of Danger

This is not the first time this has happened; neither will it be the last, but according to media reports, a few weeks ago a worker was sacked for writing on her Facebook profile that her job with a marketing firm was “boring”. Kimberly Swann, 16, Essex, was asked to leave after her manager saw the comment.

William Hanson on BBC1's The Big Questions

William Hanson on BBC1's The Big Questions

The current ‘king’ of social networking, recently celebrated its fifth anniversary. The media covered this event thoroughly; I have spoken about the issue on various radio stations and last week on BBC1’s Sunday morning live debate programme, The Big Questions, hosted by Nicky Campbell.

Facebook is a wonderful tool, yet it can also pose great danger and caution is needed. It is important to remember that you are making information about yourself semi-public, and all-and-sundry can log-on, register and look at your profile.

I do not for one moment suggest that Facebook and the like are scrapped. Some of my friends are hopeless when it comes to email and the only way to get their attention is to send them a Facebook message (which can be both public and private). The important thing to remember is that social networking sites should be there to complement our social lives, and not to replace them. There is no substitute for face-to-face conversation. The danger with such sites is that younger generations will become unable to hold a proper conversation, or to write legibly. (My own handwriting is far from perfect! Although that is more to do with the rise of the computer in general, rather than Facebook or MySpace.)

These sites are no place for anyone who wants to remain anonymous or enigmatic; some people even choose not to reveal their real names.

As this unfortunate girl found out, some employers (rightly or wrongly) do now check their employees’ profiles – either before they hire or after. It is important that we don’t use our Facebook pages to create a different, more glamorous version of ourselves – masking the real person. If you are true and consistent to yourself, then you probably won’t fall into any traps. facebook-logo

If you upload photographs of an event, do remember your friends’ egos. Decide (or ask) people what images they want online, especially if they are embarrassing. Don’t splurge out details of a private conversation you may have had in the public zones on the social networking sites. Avoid applications such as ‘Top Friends’, where you rate your friends and put them in order: you may as well line up your friends in real life and give them differing rosettes.

There is a school of thought that the more friends you have the more kudos you will gain amongst other friends: poppycock.

One positive of Facebook is that it tells you a few days before whose birthday is coming up, thus enabling you to (if they are a real friend) go and buy a present and/or card. This does not mean that for ‘real’ friends you can then write on their ‘Wall’ wishing them happy birthday. How impersonal!

Social networking sites can be a help; they can also be a hindrance. Common sense will help you steer clear of any mishaps that one day could cost you your job.

William Hanson
Tutor, The English Manner



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