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Sunday, March 31, 2013

Advice From the Digital Age Emily Posts

The Emily Posts of the Digital Age

Advice on everything from proper behavior in the men’s room to how to open Champagne can be found in videos on the Web. But what may be the fastest-growing area of social advice is the Internet itself and the proper displays of what has been called “netiquette.”

Are manners dead Cellphones, Twitter and Facebook may be killing off the old civilities and good graces, but a new generation of etiquette gurus, good-manner bloggers and self-appointed YouTube arbiters is rising to make old-fashioned protocols relevant to a new generation.

Grace Bonney has added a weekly etiquette column to Design Sponge, her home décor blog.

Their apparent goal: to help members of Generation Y navigate thorny, tech-age minefields like Paperless Post invites, same-sex weddings and online dating â€" not to mention actual face-to-face contact with people they encounter in the offline world.

For instance, you may not think you need a tutorial on shaking hands when being introduced to someone for the first time, but Gloria Starr, an image consultant based in Newport Beach, Calif., begs to differ.

“When you shake hands, it’s two or three times up and down â€" from the elbow and not the wrist,” Ms. Starr says in one of her 437 YouTube videos, helpfully bobbing her right hand up and down in demonstration. Then “smile and introduce yourself.”

Or how about the way to conduct yourself at the gym Videos on gym etiquette are a particularly hot Web topic of late, said Kevin Allocca, the trends manager for YouTube. One video, “Don’t Be That Guy at the Gym,” shows five men demonstrating various sweat-soaked faux pas, like the “meathead” who grunts loudly each time he performs a rep, or the self-anointed “coach” who offers unsolicited (and largely unwelcome) advice to other gym-goers. Posted last April, it has been viewed some 3 million times.

No arena of modern life, it seems, is too obscure or ridiculous for consideration. An instructional Web site called Howcast.com has a popular channel on YouTube that tackles weighty issues like how to handle flatulence in yoga class or how to behave at a nude beach. “If it would be unseemly to gape at that body part while it’s fully clothed,” the latter video instructs, “it’s downright rude to gawk at it undressed.”

On another video, one veteran of the fast-food industry proffers advice on how to act at a drive-in window (“Do not scream ‘hello’ as soon as you pull up to the speaker. Wait to be greeted”), while there are more than 500 videos on the momentous subject of how to properly set the dinner table.

But perhaps the fastest-growing area of social advice â€" one that has spawned not just videos but also Web sites, blogs and books â€" is the Internet itself, and the proper displays of what’s been termed “netiquette.” There are YouTube videos on using emoticons in business e-mails, being discreet when posting on someone’s Facebook wall, limiting baby photos on Instagram, retweeting too many Twitter messages and juggling multiple online chats.

“We’re living in an age of anxiety that’s a reflection of the near-constant change and confusion in technology and social mores,” said Steven Petrow, an author of five etiquette books including “Mind Your Digital Manners: Advice for an Age Without Rules,” to be published in 2014. (Mr. Petrow is a regular contributor to The New York Times, writing an advice column on gay-straight issues for the Booming blog.)

“Whether it’s wondering how many times it is acceptable to text a date before being seen as a stalker, or what the role of parents is at a same-sex wedding,” he said, “etiquette gurus are popping out from under tablecloths everywhere to soothe all those living in fear of newfangled faux pas.”

Such advice is dished out on Web sites run by protocol professionals like the dapper Thomas Farley, a television talk-show staple, and Elaine Swann, a San Diego County-based consultant, and in the online newsletter Dot Complicated, published by Randi Zuckerberg, the former Facebook executive.

“Many of these emerging etiquette issues are complicated because there are no clear-cut, black-and-white answers,” Ms. Zuckerberg said. A recent post on Dot Complicated dealt with how to respond to a request for money, something that Ms. Zuckerberg, C.E.O. of Zuckerberg Media, said she has had to deal with quite frequently. (Her advice: “Say no and say it quickly.”)

Young people “are getting sick of the irony, rudeness and snark that is so prevalent in their online lives,” said Jane Pratt, the editor in chief of xoJane, a women’s lifestyle site where etiquette posts are a popular feature. “The return of etiquette is in part a response to the harshness of the interactions they are having in the digital sphere.”

“Nice is very cool right now,” she added.

THE PUBLISHING INDUSTRY is scurrying to catch up, with a flurry of new etiquette books. “Etiquette is a popular publishing subject right now because, yes, it’s true, good manners never go of style,” said Christine Carswell, the publisher of Chronicle Books, which will publish “The Forgetful Gentleman” by Nathan Tan in May.

Last year alone, three books that tackle such subjects were published by contributors to The Times: Henry Alford’s “Would It Kill You to Stop Doing That: A Modern Guide to Manners”; Philip Galanes’s “Social Q’s: How to Survive the Quirks, Quandaries and Quagmires of Today”; and the former “Ethicist” columnist Randy Cohen’s “Be Good: How to Navigate the Ethics of Everything.”

Other notable titles include “Miss Jane Austen’s Guide to Modern Life’s Dilemmas,” by Rebecca Smith, a British novelist who says she is a direct descendant of the “Pride and Prejudice” author, and “What Would Michelle Do A Modern-Day Guide to Living with Substance and Style,” by Allison Samuels, a Daily Beast senior writer, who looks to the White House for guidance.

The social quandaries seem to be endless. Are you obligated to respond to Facebook party invitations Is it rude to listen to your iPod while car-pooling

A version of this article appeared in print on March 31, 2013, on page ST1 of the New York edition with the headline: The Emily Posts of the Digital Age.