Back to school tomorrow, kids in bed, Christmas decorations are on the way down, and now comes the time for the thank you letters.
When I was younger I quite liked writing thank you letters. Got a pen, got some paper, wrote a letter. Done. Now, when I get ready to sit down with my kids I wonder if a simple letter is enough. Should I enclose a picture of the kiddies? Or one they drew themselves? Or wouldn’t it be nice if each letter contained a picture of them wearing/playing/reading the particular present that the receiver of the letter sent for them?
I weigh up all of these options and I wonder, procrastinate and invariably fail to get anything done by mid January, at which point one of the kids has a birthday. And then what should I do? Send the Christmas thank you cards and the birthday ones together? Or should I stagger them, perhaps with a holding card in the first one, advising the second will soon be on the way? There have been occasions when I have resorted to sending a photo and a note via email, or Facebook message or even text. But somehow, that doesn’t feel quite right. Letters are kind of nice to receive after all, aren’t they?
I found a book on my shelves. Normally, when I refer to a book in a post it is one by or about a much respected philosopher. This one is by Barbara Cartland. I am not sure of her philosophical credentials but she has big opinions in a big helpful list. It is called “The Etiquette handbook”. It has sections on how women should not wear face cream in bed, and how one should address one’s servants. It helps us understand whether or not to take a friend when invited to a party, and how, once at the party, it is best if you and friend do not get totally sozzled. It also advises how, “The child who receives no training in etiquette and good manners will grow into a primitive savage”. Crikey.
Alas, while it does refer to how the different classes in the class system here in the UK have different codes of etiquette, it has no advice on how to be a generally top notch pillar of politeness across the myriad of social media tools. Looks like the kids could have a very savage fate indeed, given the tech savvy world we are raising them in.
I don’t think my kids engaging with these technological tools means the end of manners, decency and their ability to be good people. I seem to recall when my parents thought home phones used by teenagers were going to cause the downfall of civilisation (yes, I am that old). Monumental debates were had in our house on where to install a second phone (not too near my bedroom, where nobody would be able to hear if I began speaking in tongues). But, once we had agreed the house rules, when on the phone the general manners thing was pretty much just as it was in real life: say hello, say goodbye, don’t talk to others while talking on the phone. The only thing to avoid became apparent once phones became cordless – do not talk on the phone whilst sat on the toilet. Pretty easy rules to follow.
Now I have: a home phone; a mobile phone that receives calls, messages, and FaceTime ; Skype; a personal email; a personal email that apple makes me have; a personal email that my phone provider makes me have; a blogging email address; Facebook for personal use and for blogging; too much spam to see any emails that matter; a Google+ account; a twitter account; an instagram account; my Blog; a letter box; and an increased tendency for panic attacks. Barbara Cartland – where are you when I need you?
I have felt bad for a while on twitter that I have not read every tweet ever sent ever. It seems rude – you might be saying something important. I follow blogs. Sometimes I miss when you publish. I feel terrible, especially when you took the time to comment upon mine. I have texts I received this morning that I haven’t responded to yet. One of my friends who sent a text has now re-sent hers, assuming the first one did not send because I have not got back in under an hour. Skype rings, I ignore it. The phone rings, I am checking emails while I am talking on it. I have let you all down. And I STILL have not sent the thank you letters.
I am going to assume that even though the amount of communication has increased, that manners remain manners. It is surely not that hard to be polite – I just need to stop thinking and worrying, and start doing. So I have written my own guide to etiquette for this modern age, something I can perhaps pass down to the kids as an appendix to Barbara’s wise book. Here goes:
- I won’t read every tweet ever sent.
- If I am up to my armpits in children or emails, I won’t answer the phone, or your Skype call, or FaceTime call. I’ll wait until I can give you some proper attention.
- If you mention me in a tweet, a comment, a Facebook message, leave a voicemail, a text, I will always ALWAYS respond. Just in my own time. Don’t worry if it takes me more that an hour. I’m not dead, and I don’t hate you.
- If you say anything nice about my blog, tweet, Facebook update, or recommend any of my ‘stuff’ to someone else, I will try to check your blog out too. This is not an underhand way of saying, “look at my blog and let us both increase our page views today.”. It’s just an honest thought that if you have bothered to respond to my post, it’s nice to not then blank you, albeit virtually.
- I will only use one form of communication at a time. This includes when actually speaking to actual people in the actual flesh, actually. (While writing this, I have my phone next to me checking every notification as it comes in. Well, no more!).
- If I post a query on a forum, I will think if I can help someone else on that forum with their query.
- If I post a post on one of your websites, I will try and look through a few other blogs that can be found there too. I might not be able to read everything published, but I will give something back. It’s kind. And also, I will enjoy it – I love what you write and I want to read more of it.
- I’ll make more time to look at the amazing blogs that I follow.
- If you start to follow me via my blog or twitter, or on whatever other social media tool there is, I’ll say thank you. If you follow me in real life, I will have you arrested.
- I will write the sodding thank you letters.
What have I missed? Please let me know!
One final thought. Barbara finishes her often peculiar advice with something I cannot argue with:
If you have read this book carefully you will have discovered on almost every page the magic formal for good manners. It also ensures personal success and every possible advancement. It is to say ‘thank you’ and keep on saying it.
So, I am going to end this post with a few thank yous of my own. These are the blogs of some of the people who have been so lovely about my blog and/or so helpful. If you are not listed here and you have helped me, I am sorry. Just know that in the future, I am going to get better at the simple act of saying, “Thanks”.
Jo Sandelson. Amazingly funny cartoons and the words to go with them. Thank you Jo for being so lovely to me.
Virtually Allsorts. One of the first people to follow me and always there to give a comment, a tweet and some support. The blog covers….well……virtually all sorts.
Soraya Cotwal. One of the first people to look through lots of my blog in one sitting, giving some really encouraging comments. Soraya, if you are there, I cannot find your blog anymore. I hope you get to see this post.
Mammasaurus. She is involved in lots of initiatives to help and support bloggers. I have never seen anything she does that does not include engaging with other bloggers, and offering tools to help us all. If there is someone living the blogging etiquette dream, it is her.
Tales of a twin mum. A blogger I have met in actual real life at Mumsnet’s Blogfest in November of last year. A lovely read of a blog, covering the twin thing, her upcoming move to Oz, and other things besides.
I’m off now to find some more blogs to read, which reminds me I also need to say thank you to WordPress. They are running a challenge this month called Zero to Hero. It is today’s challenge that has prompted this post. The challenge is just to take some time to find some of the amazing blogs that are out there, and to remember that we are part of a community. And all good communities surely need good manners, don’t they?