Will we ever get it right? The do's and do not's for interacting with our grandkids' and grownkids' Facebook pages and Twitter streams are tricky enough. But, turns out there is an etiquette to be followed with email. Susan Adcox, on her grandparenting blog, had a post on a letter a grandchild wrote to Miss Manners about her grandmother's barrage of forwarded emails--you know, those mass emails telling you not to eat banana peels or warning you of a dangerous computer-destroying virus.
In her letter to Miss Manners, the grandchild (a college student) wrote after her grandmother complained about her granddaughter's lack of response to the forwarded emails--one of which contained a nasty virus link that the grandmother clicked on. The granddaughter had to help her grandparent clean up her computer and the result was a cooling in the relationship. As the granddaughter put it, "I finally realized I didn’t have time to sit and reply to ridiculous forwarded e-mails when I have other priorities, such as keeping my GPA up. I saw my grandmother a few weeks ago, and I could tell she wanted to make a rude comment about my not responding to her e-mails. I still think it’s absolutely ridiculous to respond to a forwarded e-mail."
MIss Manners, in her usual droll manner, started out with this trenchant observation: "Before you make Miss Manners responsible for your GPA, allow her to suggest a less time-consuming way of handling the situation. That would be to deal with the underlying problem, rather than the surface one." She pointed out that the underlying issue was probably more about the lack of communication than the response to the mass emails and that the granddaughter might cure the problem by shooting her grandmother an occasional email, as in "I'm busy studying for chemistry exam. Thinking of you and hoping your garden is flourishing," or something like that. I would add to that: ditto to the grandparent. Mass forwarded emails are not a substitute for bona fide communication.
Susan Adcox goes a step further and offers grandparents two guidelines for email behavior, which apply whether it's in interaction with a grandchild, grown child or anyone else: "First, don't send forwards to people who never send you forwards. They are obviously not interested in receiving such information. Second, don't click on a link in any email that looks the slightest bit suspicious, even if it comes from a friend or relative.
"Being tech-savvy means constantly adding to one's skill and sophistication, but it's worth it to have a solid electronic relationship with grandchildren. Besides, it's good for our brains. Recent studies show that using the Internet well requires decision-making and complex reasoning skills--the kind of skills that warn us not to click on a link in a spammy email."