It happens every day. Tourists whip out maps; yuppies overestimate their control of retractable dog leashes; teenage girls refuse to break their line of chatter as you tailgate behind with three bags of groceries and two months’ worth of dry cleaning. Emily Post would roll over in her khaki grave. Now that the holiday shopping season has begun, expect poor street/ATM/subway etiquette to get even worse. But now this sort of rudeness happens in the privacy of your own inbox, care of people you actually know. The tourists will always follow the same predictable pattern of missteps, but technology is growing too fast for us tokeep up with it socially. Let’s curb the onslaught of holiday Evites, forwards, and the like, and establish a little technetiquette.
1. The Evite Ah, the Starbucks of the Internet. The illusion of choice, made to order. Since I’ve never known anyone who has wholesomely selected a “Girl’s Night In” or “Super Bowl” template (perhaps I simply need new friends), Evite as I know it has always been a bit of a nuisance. The following guidelines might get me dropped from the guest lists of future soirees, but if it means no more clip-art martini glasses, I’ll take the risk.
Ideally, don’t use Evite. Send out a mass bcc’ed e-mail or pdf or invites on dead trees. If you somehow feel inexplicably drawn to the Evite, drop the irony act and make it as basic and functional as possible. Who hasn’t had to click open their inbox to find 31-year-old males sending invites to their third annual 29th birthday with a Strawberry Shortcake image that reads: “Guess Who’s 5 Today?!” Yeah, you’re hilarious. Beneath the overwrought text (no doubt promising unlimited Schlitz and strippers on donkeys) lie about 276 names. If you’re going to invite more than 40 people to your birthday party, Evite provides you with a Hide Guests function. Use it. Save yourself from either potential humiliation or gro-tesque popularity. The latter sends an uncomfortable message: You will not speak to me for more than a minute now that I’ve schlepped myself and my $9 bottle of Merlot to a warehouse in Williamsburg on a Saturday night. Hide Guests should take care of the the rest of the Evite pitfalls. These are: people who respond “+50.” You people should be beaten with sticks, a lashing for every fake guest. I’m serious. Also, people who give elaborate explanations about why they chose the “maybe” dot. I don’t care. No one cares that you might be out of town but your flight gets in at 7 p.m., so if you literally run from the airport . . . save a shot for me, Bob! Because Evite is a public forum in a private space, I am still working on reminding myself I don’t actually have to read the responses. There’s nothing more irritating than a private joke played out among a small segment of the invitees.
Tina: “I’ll be there . . . as long as I can touch Bob’s pineapple.”
Jeff: “Happy birthday man, even though we all know your pineapple has been canned since Atlantic City.”
Don’t do that. You wouldn’t do it if you were face-to-face with these people. You can’t even be getting anything out of it since you’re only checking back to get cross streets on the day of the big event, unless you’re psychotically checking every day to see if your ex is coming. (Evite informs the host when you do that, so you might want to pull in the reins on your stalking.) This leads us to a subsection of E-type: People who use it as a format for the Great American Novel. Here the invite number isn’t the problem, but the responses, which take their cue from the top text.
Andrew: “I will indeed be there both in spirit and in body and imbibing copious quantities of the first into the second.”
Fantastic, you graduated from college. So did I. What does this do to the one legitimately busy pediatric neurologist who only has time to click and run? That’s right, just a bright green dot without accompanying witty phrasing. Cold, right? Suddenly, Miss Do-Gooder is a big frigid asshole who doesn’t get any of your jokes anyway. Oh, she’s coming, all right, but she certainly doesn’t seem excited about it. She must be one of Bob’s “friends” from the office. This party’s gonna suck. Maybe you should just have a “Girl’s Night In.”
2. The forward A classic of its generation. They can brighten the day if received from a person who rarely sends them—but let’s face it: We all get a little trigger-happy from time to time. Kerry-friendly IQ charts and red-state-bashing maps only serve to give blue staters blue balls at this point. Less topical forwards spring to mind as well. Like that random questionnaire about yourself and your favorite pudding flavors that ends with your perpetuating the cycle by using 20 more of your closest friends. But just when I think I’m getting a grip on it, the forwards pull me back in. Lately I’ve found that the forward, no stranger to Darwin, is adapting before my very eyes. It knows the jig is up: A mass message is no longer acceptable as contact from a friend. Forwards are becoming more elaborate and often arrive with loud streaming video that causes your computer to accidentally bitch out your boss as he walks by. The recipient box, once boasting a social-circle résumé of @columbia, @esquire, @sony has tucked itself neatly into bcc invisibility and now I have no idea where I stand. “Thought you guys would appreciate this,” starts one. Who guys? How many? Am I special? I don’t feel special. On the other hand, forwards sent to a visible group of addresses court the “Reply All” faux pas that speaks for itself—re:, re:, and re: again. It’s a problem either way.
I propose we use mass forwards for emergencies only. “Thought you guys might appreciate this: The building’s on fire.” Now that’s a quality forward.
3. Text messaging Let’s go ahead and apply some basic parameters here. More than any other communication advance, this one’s fucking up our relationships. Let’s say a text message counts for three-fourths of a phone call. Contact was attempted, and according to the open-envelope icon, achieved. But it’s so lame, firing this brief caveperson-speak into the nightlife abyss. Guys: Nary a full-grown woman is wooed by passing notes. This all seems a lot like fifth grade, but it’s actually not. I know, I often have trouble with the concept myself. People are getting addicted to texting, even as an alternative to the drunk dial. That’s always fun: slurring your semicolons. Between e-mail and texting we can go for weeks without ever really speaking to each other.
We must be stopped. Even text messaging is developing gradations. It takes a long friggin’ time pressing the 1 button to get an apostrophe, doesn’t it? I know it, you know it, and that guy you’re after knows it. Keep it simple, skip the conjunctions and the run-on sentences and remember that texting is more closely related to phoning than e-mailing. At 10 cents a pop and requiring a trying amount of thumb dexterity, a three-fourths phone call means that I shouldn’t have to write you back right away, either.
4. The camera phone Not everything that’s good enough for Gawker is good enough for you. A few nights ago, I went to a party sponsored by a cell phone company. As I walked inside, a sales rep in a suit pulled my arm and insisted on taking my picture with his phone. I made a move to step inside but couldn’t break away from his cheery promotional sales pitch and phone-shaped cuff links. A determined bad-toucher, he pulled at my arm a second time. I didn’t know quite where to look, or what I would look like if a flash went off. I refused to let him take my picture, moving my bag to block my face. He grew increasingly annoying, thinking this was some kind of a game. “It’s just a picture. Why not?” I told him the phone would steal my soul and ran inside.
As I made my way through the crowd of text messagers and mobile jockeys, I couldn’t help but notice I was dramatically overdressed for the occasion. My denim-clad friend shook his head and gestured at the human sequin that was me.
“The Evite said casual.”
Sloane Crosley’s last Essay was on the ass.