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Are You Are Using Email Incorrectly?

The right way to email people when you're inviting them to a party. Also what happens when your mom follows your on Twitter? (Besides PANIC.)

Posted on December 14, 2012, at 12:23 p.m. ET

What's up with people sending e-mails to groups of friends using bcc? I know a few folks who send out party invitations using bcc. But why? Is there really a privacy risk associated with all this? Plus, this is a party invitation we're talking about. Shouldn't the basis of the party be fun, camaraderie, sharing...openness?

Ahhhh nooooo you’ve found it! Blind copying on group invitation emails is my very incredibly specific Achilles’ Heel. Like, every part of my body is a piece of digital etiquette advice and all of them are solidly black or white and indestructible and encased in titanium, but my Achilles’ Heel is bcc, and it’s uncovered and gray and could snap at any moment.

I’m ashamed to admit it: I’m willing to be flexible on this one.

I do think bcc is a nice thing to do with bigger group email invites, especially when not all the members know each other well. It just gives people some privacy, allows people to respond discreetly (which is nice when you have to turn something down!) and doesn’t allow reply-all emails that clog everyone’s inboxes. For hosts, it’s also kind of a nice trick to hope that certain invitees aren’t swayed one way or the other by other invitees’ RSVPs. It’s more in line with traditional paper invitations, too. It might be a little insidious, but when is party planning not? I get it, though: it’s kind of secretive, and there might be cases where it’s better to be all in the open, all up front. I trust this readership enough now to say something I never thought I’d say: use your best judgment. No! I take it back. Use my best judgment.

So a friend fixed me up on a date and it ended up going pretty well. We talk on the phone and text, but she's let me know that texting is kind of cop-out communication and doesn't "count" like the phone. She has a point, but I don't want to have a long conversation every time I want to communicate with her. Isn't this what texting is for? Do you see the problem?

I feel surprised by many of the texting rules I’m forced to lay down as Texting Law around here, mostly because I still hold some misguided notion that a lot of this is common sense. The common problem with common sense is that not everyone’s understanding of common sense is sensible. Also, not everyone’s idea of common sense is MY idea of common sense, even though I think it should be? That’s another new law: the only common sense is my common sense! Unless you have strong feelings otherwise, in which case I guess I’ll just give you a mean look on your way out.

You, dear letter-writer, are right. I actually think it’s pretty weird to be so emphatic about the need for numerous long phone calls so early on in a relationship. Save that shit for when you’re boyfriended/girlfriended! And besides, texting is normal! All the kids are doing it! I do think three-hour texting conversations are REALLY stupid, and I agree with her that texts are not phone substitutes. You and I both know that texts do, however, perform their own service, and are part of a well-balanced breakfast. Who doesn’t like a few quick text exchanges with someone you like during the day? I think your date would too! She might just need to be reassured that you’re not going to drop phone calls from your shared dating experience entirely.

Here is what you say to her next time you see her in person and this comes up: “What if I want to talk to you a few bonus times in BETWEEN the times we talk on the phone? Can I text you then?” If you say something like that (personalized, of course) and you smile when you say it, she will do that thing in cartoons where the person starts wobbling like rubber and slides smoothly into a lying-down position on the floor. I mean, I made that up, and I’m just reading it to mySELF, and even I have heart palpitations. It’s sort of a line, yes, but it’s just an especially lovely way of saying what you’re already expressed to be true. If THAT doesn’t sway her, I have no weapons left in my arsenal that will.

How not to tweet

My mom followed me on Twitter! How to proceed?? Send help!

I have a friend who is my evil clone who once spent the better part of an afternoon pseudo-trolling (the difference between trolling and pseudo-trolling is quite nuanced) a number of parody Twitter accounts because they didn’t like something she wrote about parody Twitter accounts and she thought that was silly. Some people found this amusing, and that power went to her head, her eyes starting to glow dark with menace. Things cooled down eventually, and the next day her dad (who is also my dad) called her and said, “Don’t get in pissing contests with people on the Internet.” She sort of protested, but not really, because she knew he was right. Or at least half-right.

Twitter makes us do very weird things, at least 40% of which are regrettable almost instantly. And that’s fine. These things can stay. But it’s good to have someone at least a generation older than you who is watching, because even if he or she never says anything, you will know that person is there. And I don’t think it hurts to imagine things from the perspective of someone who is not a regular Twitter user once in a while. Twitter is a normalcy black hole, and without ties to the real world you could get lost. If you’re going to tweet something that you couldn’t explain to your mom (or whichever wise elder) in fifteen minutes, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t tweet it, but it might mean you’re ~in too deep~. I’ll call someone, we’ll send down a rope.

FWD: Halp! is a weekly advice column on how to behave like a person when using technology. Would you like said advice? Email your questions to Katie.

Katie Heaney is a contributing editor at BuzzFeed FWD. She thinks you should have good manners, even on the Internet.

Illustration by Cara Vandermey

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.