Etiquette gurus pop up on social media to teach the 20-somethings

Monday April 1 2013

Are manners dead? Cell phones, Twitter, and Facebook may be killing the old civilities and good graces, but a new generation of etiquette gurus — good-manner bloggers, and self-appointed YouTube arbiters — is rising to make old-fashioned protocols relevant to Generation Y.

Their apparent goal is to help members of this generation to navigate thorny, tech-age minefields, such as online dating.
For instance, Gloria Starr, an image consultant based in California, has 437 YouTube videos on diverse topics.

How about the way to conduct yourself at the gym? Videos on gym etiquette are a particularly hot Web topic of late, says Kevin Allocca, the trends manager for YouTube.

One video, titled Don’t Be That Guy at the Gym, shows five men demonstrating various sweat-soaked faux pas, like the one who grunts loudly each time he performs a rep, or the self-anointed “coach” who offers unsolicited and largely unwelcome advice to other gym-goers. Posted last April, it has been viewed three million times.

No arena of modern life, it seems, is too obscure or ridiculous for consideration. An instructional website,, has a popular channel on YouTube that tackles weighty issues like how to handle flatulence in yoga class.

But perhaps the fastest-growing area of social advice — one that has spawned not just videos but also websites, blogs, and books — is the Internet itself and the proper displays of what has been termed “netiquette.”

There are YouTube videos on using emoticons in business emails, being discreet when posting on someone’s Facebook wall, limiting baby photos on Instagram, retweeting too many Twitter messages, and juggling multiple online chats.

“We’re living in an age of anxiety, which is a reflection of the near-constant change and confusion in technology and social mores,” said Steven Petrow, an author of five etiquette books, including Mind Your Digital Manners: Advice for an Age Without Rules, to be published in 2014.

“Whether it’s wondering how many times it is acceptable to text a date before being seen as a stalker...” he said, “etiquette gurus are popping out from under tablecloths everywhere to soothe all those living in fear of new-fangled faux pas.”

Such advice is dished out on websites run by protocol professionals like Randi Zuckerberg, the former Facebook executive who is now the publisher of online newsletter Dot Complicated.

“Many of these emerging etiquette issues are complicated because there are no clear-cut, black-and-white answers,” Zuckerberg says.
Young people “are getting sick of the irony and rudeness that is so prevalent in their online lives,” says Jane Pratt, the editor-in-chief of a women’s lifestyle site called xoJane, where etiquette posts are a popular feature. “Nice is very cool right now,” she adds.

The publishing industry is scurrying to catch up, with a flurry of new etiquette books.
“Etiquette is a popular publishing subject right now because, yes, it’s true, good manners never go out of style,” says Christine Carswell, the publisher of Chronicle Books, which will publish The Forgetful Gentleman by Nathan Tan in May.

Last year alone, three books that tackle such subjects were published by contributors to The Times: Henry Alford’s Would It Kill You to Stop Doing That: A Modern Guide to Manners, Philip Galanes’ Social Q’s: How to Survive the Quirks, Quandaries and Quagmires of Today, and Randy Cohen’s Be Good: How to Navigate the Ethics of Everything.

The social quandaries seem to be endless. Are you obligated to respond to Facebook party invitations? Is it rude to listen to your iPod while car-pooling?
A book titled Emily Post’s Manners in a Digital World: Living Well Online, is to be released as an e-book and paperback in April.

The book, written by Daniel Post, tackles questions like whether one should announce a serious illness on Facebook. According to Post, medical updates should be confined to close friends and family.

Even the new gurus who position themselves as the embodiment of old world civilities feel obligated to tackle 21st Century conundrums.
Meanwhile, there is a retro allure to etiquette that appeals to 20-somethings, said Pam Krauss, the publisher of Potter Style, which in September is coming out with Modern Manners: Tools to Take You to the Top, by Dorothea Johnson. The author is an expert in the etiquette world.

“There’s a whole generation of young people for whom etiquette, much like cooking, sewing, and other ‘home arts,’ was not passed down from their parents or grandparents the way it would have been in years past,” Krauss argues.

Young women in the DIY demographic have also shown a new interest in manners, said Grace Bonney, the founder of Design Sponge, a popular home decor blog with a new weekly etiquette column. Etiquette posts on things like “social media dos and don’ts” have attracted five times the number of comments and Facebook “likes” as many other posts, she says.

“I think people are starting to see that it can be rewarding to put time into any effort that makes people feel more welcome in your home, whether that’s a great meal, learning to arrange flowers, or just general etiquette for being a good host,” she said.

New York Times Syndicate