Digital Manners: The Virtual Baby Shower

Navigating the intersection of etiquette and technology.
Nov. 7 2011 4:36 PM

The Virtual Baby Shower (Transcript) 

Is it tacky to send links to a gift registry to the expectant mother’s far-flung friends and call it a shower?

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We’re not going to go down that path, but in general I agree with you. There’s no need for the virtual shower because you should have a real shower. As your wife experienced, it’s fun to be in the room with your friends who either have babies or are going to have babies that are excited about you having a baby, and it’s a really warm, wonderful social event.

And other people who are good enough friends to know that you’re expecting, all they have to do is, “Hey, is Farhad’s wife registered? Where is she registered? What would she like?”

Farhad:  I don’t even think this is a technological issue. If you remove the technology here, which is e-mail or Facebook, and you thought about how you would do this the old way, you would never send somebody a card that said where you were registered and told them to mail you a gift.

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So if you’re doing that just with the new technology, it’s just equally repugnant.

Emily:  No. It is not polite to solicit gifts in that way. And, Alisa, although you’ve got your sister to back down, anyone who’s moved to get a gift – I agree with you, Farhad – you don’t need new technology to find out where your friend is registered or what your friend would like.

Alisa:  And I’m sure that she did have a real shower, but I think there’s also a trend of having multiple showers with different groups – particularly when it comes to bridal showers – and probably baby showers are going in the same direction.

Emily:  You’re right again there, Alisa. I hear from people who talk about their fifth shower. I hear from people who have been invited to someone’s fifth shower and say, “I got three gifts. I didn’t get a gift for the fourth shower.” Stop it, please. Just stop. One shower for your friend. Sometimes people at work will gather together voluntarily and have you a shower.

Beyond that, you have the power to say, “Thank you so much for offering to have a shower. So-and-so is having a shower for me. I hope you can make it.” You don’t have to have five showers.

Alisa, you are upholding old-fashioned virtues and we appreciate it. Thank you so much for the letter and for calling.

Alisa:  Thank you so much.

Emily:  So, Farhad, you and I have gone the old-fashioned way together on this one. You’ve been in the world of showers much more recently than I have, and I’m very happy to hear your wife got together with her friends and opened the gifts and had a really good time and that mass e-mail was not send – “Here’s what I want. Mail it to me.”

Farhad:  If we have a baby again, I’m just going to send a link out to all my Twitter followers to say where we’re registered.

Emily:  But you should do the Skype shower and give them your recipe for Mai-Tais so they can get drunk while you’re opening their gifts.

Send us your questions about shifting etiquette in the online age. Our address is digitalmanners@slate.com

Farhad:  You can also join our Facebook page where we carry on the conversation throughout the week.  Go to Facebook.com/digitalmanners.

Emily:  And we’ll talk to you next time on Manners for the Digital Age.

Correction, Nov. 8, 2011: This transcript originally misspelled Alisa Harris' first name. (Return to the corrected sentence.)

Farhad Manjoo is a technology columnist for the New York Times and the author of True Enough.

Emily Yoffe is a regular Slate contributor. She writes the Dear Prudence column. You can reach her at prudence@slate.com.