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Digital Etiquette for People Who Are Old

To help out the last of the analogue set, I present my guide to etiquette for old-ish people in the digital age.

I have several friends who suck at technology. They can't even figure out how to steal music or scan an old photograph without including the white space on the back of the scanner.

You can't blame them, as some of us in our 30s didn't have home computers growing up, and those who did had some ugly Commodore 64 or Compaq piece of junk that had those big floppy disk drives and connected to the internet via a 56k modem, which took two days to download a pixelated .jpeg of some tits. So I get it, but that doesn't mean that because I try to keep up with things that I'm your tech-support guy.


To help out the last of the analog set, I present my guide to etiquette for old-ish people in the digital age.

Everyone you know is pretty much "on the internet" all the fucking time. That guy who talks about being off the grid has a LinkedIn, your shredded aunt friend-requested you on Facebook and your sister still forwards you emails in Comic Sans that prompt you to scroll down and make a wish. The internet is no longer novel, so don’t ever say you bought those new Reebok running shoes “on the internet.” It’s the same as saying you got them “at a store.” Good job, you bought something.

Adding to that point, don’t talk about things "before the internet," as if it were a real era, like BCE or before Reagan. No one cares how hard it was to find Doc Martens as a teen or about the record store in your town where you bought New Order singles that "these kids today just download now." Get with the times, Gramps.

No Sandusky on this, but there are two equally offensive ways to talk about “kids.” The first is simple: When referring to people younger than you who grew up with cooler things and more opportunities, do not derisively refer to them as “kids,” like the curmudgeon quoted above. Example: After watching the X-Games, don’t say, “Shawn White’s a fucking millionaire for skateboarding? Kids today make money off all the shit I used to get beaten up for, man.” Avoid any damning of technology and instead embrace it, you’ll find better porn and will sound less annoying.


Secondly, when you’re around anyone who isn't a parent, please do not force us to watch a video of your children. It doesn’t prompt people without kids to reflect on their purpose on this earth or think you’re a great parent; it just makes us lonely and annoyed.

Additionally, and this ties in to the two first points, do not ever discuss how you saw the movie Kids – you guessed it – when you were a kid.

It's awesome that you lost 15 pounds and have more energy since you quit drinking alcohol and sip kale for lunch, but I don't care at all. No one wants to hear how much easier it is for you to poop, or any other benefit from you living off superfoods.

I understand that your adult job and responsibilities and shitty kid have made you so high-strung that the only way for you to not think about spreadsheets and house payments is to stretch in a room that smells like feet with other newly sober people, but if you want to give someone daily updates about it call your mum. Also, please stop talking about how “hard” your yoga class was. Math, driving in a car with your boyfriend or girlfriend without fighting and quitting heroin are things that qualify as “hard.” Aggressive stretching is not. It’s just a precursor to doing something that’s actually taxing, like wrestling, jumping really high or running long distances.


Unless one of your vested interests (i.e. your hip hop crochet class for single mothers who suffer from skin disorders) is a segment on This American Life there is no reason to alert anyone to something they've already read, heard or watched. If you have a good job and are old, chances are you’ve either read this or your coworkers have discussed this in your presence. And under no circumstances should you draw attention by prefacing any link with "Loves me some…".

I know you’re stoked that "the wifey" made your favourite dinner and now you're going to watch X-Files together, but please just use his or her name. Referring to your significant other by relationship status isn’t cute; it sounds like you're saying "the help" or referring to "those kinds of people." These people have names, so use them and use them with respect. This is a rule that applies to both online and in-person exchanges.

Yes, way back in elementary school we learned the proper way to write a letter, and it was romantic and shit, but emails are not letters. Before you cc everyone a 600-word soliloquy going into detail on every mundane thing that happened on your wine-tasting getaway in Sonoma, think to yourself: Whogivesashit? And yes, that's one word. If the answer is no one, keep it to yourself.


Every email my mum sends follows the same format: An opening "How are you" sentence, followed by achievements of my other siblings, mild gossip, a helpful hint about something, then she drops the bomb about some family member or friend’s health problem. It’s fine if you’re the recipient’s parent, but if you’re over-sharing in emails and inviting me to view something on Snapfish, you’ll eventually become my mum. And I really don’t want you to become my mum. Stop yourself if you think you’re approaching this level of internet buffoonery, and don't sign your emails. I assume it’s you, especially when your email address is your fucking name.

I'm sure your squid ink tagliatelle with wild boar ragu and side of rum-infused brussels sprouts were tasty, but no one wants to see them. Ditto for oversize or funny food, and any dessert save a humourous birthday cake that looks like tits. Vacation food is also a no-no. I don't care what flan looks like in Barcelona and would rather not know considering that I’m not there right now. I’m at the DMV or some place worse, so save it.

It’s kind of OK to share a picture of something you made that looks really good, but I’d also hope if you made something with the intention of eating it that it should look good enough to photograph. Otherwise you should just order take-out or stop cooking.

This is a huge one. Nothing makes you sound like more of a philistine than refusing to enter your credit card information online to pay bills or buy something because you’re afraid some “hacker” is going to “steal your identity.” It’s super annoying to write checks and mail in payments for things, and technology saved us from it so just go with it already.


My first online commerce experience was when I purchased a Bad Brains shirt in college. The computer lab was dark, and I’m pretty sure there was a geek from the industrial design program jerking off a few rows in front of me. There was so much tension when I hit return and completed the purchase that I was sweating. I thought I’d made a huge mistake, but then I remembered my student card had like $100 on it and my credit sucked so anyone willing to steal it wasn’t going to get too far anyway.

It’s exciting when you graduate from a flip phone to a clunky smart phone you got with your free upgrade, but try to at least control yourself in public. Don’t “poke” people, don’t invite them to Farmville, don’t ask them to join your professional network and please, please do not post emoticons as comments on everything. Like furniture design and guitar solos, less is more.

Lastly, if you complain about Obama or Romney, or wage any political war on any form of social media, you’re really going to bum people out. When two things suck, the worst thing possible is to try to trick yourself and others into thinking one is less sucky. In fact, everything sucks. Except the internet, so don’t turd that one up too with your goddamn histrionics.

Have you not grown up yet? Try this:

The VICE Guide to Adulthood