When Emily Post wrote her first book, Etiquette, in 1922, she could have hardly imagined the types of dining-related topics we’d be disputing today. Selfies during dinner? Asking the hostess for wi-fi access? What would Ms. Post think of our table manners in the age of technology?
Luckily, Lizzie Post, great-great granddaughter of Emily Post, author, and co-president of the Emily Post Institute, has carried on her famous ancestor’s etiquette empire. Lizzie offers a fresh perspective on whether our modern day dinner party habits are acceptable or faux-pax. Here’s how she recommends handling a few of the high-tech situations you’re likely to find yourself in this holiday season:
If you get a Facebook party invitation and either forget to respond or don’t see it until the last minute, don’t fret. Lizzie says that sending Facebook invites is definitely more for casual holiday parties anyway, and it’s common for guests to overlook these invites.
“I don’t check Facebook more than once a week, so it would be easy for someone like me to miss a party invitation. If I was hosting this party, I would follow up with guests who I haven’t heard from on Facebook either with a text or a private message,” said Lizzie.
As the host, these types of invites are great if you want a “come one, come all kind of party,” she said. But for smaller, more intimate parties, a paper invite might be a better choice.
Any chance to log into wi-fi can save you some serious bytes on your next phone bill, but is it faux-pax to ask for the wi-fi password?
“It’s okay to ask,” said Lizzie. “It’s really your host’s call. They may want to have an unplugged party — it’s unlikely, but you have to be okay with whatever they say.”
If the host isn’t against guests tapping in, it’s nice for them to post the password in an easily accessible place where people can reference it.
the cell Phone situation
Cell phones have been around for long enough that we all know they can be considered rude at times. When exactly this is, still causes confusion.
“You want to focus on the people that you’re with,” said Lizzie. “You’ve set aside that time to spend together, so you should enjoy each other’s company.”
But when the cell phone can enhance that time, it’s fine.
“If your cousin asks you about a wedding and you have photos you want to show, this would be an appropriate time to pull out your phone. Or if you’re discussing features of a new app, for example, and you both agree now is a good time, you may choose to pull out your phone to show the other person.”
But when the phone distracting, it’s considered rude, says Lizzie. If your phone buzzes in your pocket while you’re talking to your uncle, don’t pull it out or respond. It’s not part of your present conversation.
“Friendsgivings.” Football parties. Out-of-state family affairs. There are times when you can’t contribute to a family or friend dinner with a dish, but are expected to do so financially. Be prepared to pay however the hostess would like.
“Make sure you pay people back quickly and in the method they choose,” said Lizzie. “Just because you like Venmo, doesn’t mean the host has to accept Venmo. The host can declare however they would like to be paid back.”
A Charged topic
Most people stash phone chargers in the office, the car and just about everywhere to try to keep that power bar green. But when you’re away from your usual hotspots and need a boost, is it okay to bother your host or hostess for a loaner?
“It’s perfectly fine to ask, but be prepared they might not have one compatible, or they might be using it,” said Lizzie. “It’s common now days for people to use their phones for referencing online recipes or dinner party music, so they may want to stay plugged in. Be okay with whatever they tell you.”
Ask the all-knowing Google
There comes a time when dinner conversation leads to a dispute that can be settled with a quick glance at Google. But this requires pulling out the phone. How should you proceed?
Don’t Google without group consensus first, says Lizzie. You should defer to the group and to your hostess.
“I think the standard right now for most American tables is that people will bat back and forth a couple of answers until someone says ‘Let’s Google it!’ I would pose that question to the host. People react pretty positively toward that type of interaction.”
But she emphasizes, the host is still allowed to choose whether Google should be consulted or not.
Pictures and privacy
Picture this: Someone comes into your home and starts Instagramming your personal possessions. At minimum, it could create a level of discomfort for the host. At the worst, it could create a security threat if those items are of high value.
It’s best to keep online posts to close-up photos of food. “There’s nothing wrong with posting food pictures, but beyond that, it’s best to ask the host,” said Lizzie.
It’s always nice to connect and thank your hostess for a fun evening. A quick, online message is a great option — just be careful where you post it.
“I would put a message on the party invite page rather than on the host’s personal Facebook wall. Your host might not want all of their Facebook friends to know they threw a party,” said Lizzie. “The neighbors might get upset if they knew they weren’t invited.”
A text message, phone call or thank you note is also appropriate to acknowledge a nice evening.