Dick Maynard Column February 25, 2009

Miss Manners for the geezer Internet set

Netiquette for geezers. There’s a window of opportunity for the Milieu to jump through. The past decade has brought about a whole new cyber-space world of texting, talking on the cell and e-mail, a universe coming complete with its own rules of decorum.

Stumbling across a Switched.com (a site discussing all things webby) piece by Jon Chase titled “Rules of Tech Etiquette,” I found it detailed a cyber-space black hole to be filled. Mr. Chase answered questions such as, “Should I worry about my boss checking out my Facebook page?” (Count on it) and “Why are some people such grammar Nazis when it comes to e-mail?” (Clicking on spell check must be so physically demanding). But the article seemed keyed to age 30 and under.

What about the geezer demographic? We too must be cognizant of the social mores and folkways in cyber-space. The same rules, however, don’t necessarily apply across the age spectrum.

Mr. Chase was asked, “Is it really such a big deal to e-mail a dirty joke or funny picture to a trusted friend at the office?” He seemed to think it was bad form. Geezer retirees would ask, “What? If it wasn’t for ribald humor and funny pictures, why own a computer? All that would be left for retired guys is online banking and messages from weird Aunt Bertha exclaiming “don’t break the chain and risk losing eternal salvation.” Take away naughty jokes and one might as well close the computer lid and watch “The View.” Dirty old man is not just an idle phrase, it’s a responsibility.

The “Rules of Tech Etiquette” author was also asked, “Why does my dad insist on using ALL-CAPS for e-mail?” His response? “Because he doesn’t get that you are literate and can parse his subtle writings without extra help. Your father is not aware all-caps is the on-line version of yelling.”

Someone needs to speak on the father’s behalf. “HE’S WELL AWARE HE’S YELLING. His son has a BA, two masters degrees and now plans to delay entering into an “8 to 5 existence”

(THAT WOULD BE A JOB) and wants dear old Dad to stake him to another 20 grand to attend aromatherapy school in La Jolla. YOU’D YELL TOO.”

Another question — “Is it ever okay to use emoticons in business e-mail?” — deserves a geezer guy answer. “NO”

Emoticons, those smiley face, frowny face, cutesy-poo symbols are guaranteed to activate the gag reflex when appearing in e-mail. They’re sad reminders of years ago, of middle-school girls signing letters and notes, “SWAK,” and then dotting any letter “i” appearing in their name with a heart. Emoticons are not only a breach of etiquette but also qualify as a crime against humanity.

To be a true geezer advice columnist requires getting your cranky on. For instance, Mr. Chase’s answer to, “I’m perfectly capable of talking on the phone while paying for fast food — what’s the big deal?” was much too kind.

A better response: “I’ll tell you the big deal. No one waiting behind you is the least bit interested in your leather-lunged detailing of how ‘wasted’ you were last night, Dude, so close the phone, make a decision and inform the patient soul behind the counter whether you want number three or five. Call your buddy back from the privacy of the car. Oh, and one more thing: Pull your pants up.

A geezer on-line advice column, the cyber-world equivalent of “YOU KIDS GET OUT OF MY YARD.” What fun.


Dick Maynard’s e-mail is .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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