We live in the age of technology and information, as most of us are painfully aware. As technology advances, information comes at us faster and in increasingly innovative formats: news tickers, posts, blogs, tweets, shares, updates, and so on. We are literally bombarded with information all day, every day.
The sheer quantity of the information begs the question of the quality of the information. In the current climate of social media and self-publication, assuming that information is accurate can be dangerous. The 2016 Election Day is a good example: one much-shared tweet stated that voter registration cards were required in order to cast a ballot, yet not a single state requires such a card. A popular Facebook page indicated that voting could be accomplished online, when in fact no states allow online voting (other than a few exceptions for military personnel or overseas voters).
Within the etiquette industry, a commonly misconstrued notion is what to do with the napkin when leaving the table. Numerous blogs and articles on etiquette state that when you leave the table, it is appropriate to place “the napkin on your chair”. However, this is in direct conflict with the following statements by the recognized authorities on the subject:
“At the end of the meal or if, for any reason, you must leave the table during the meal, place the used napkin to the left of your fork.” Amy Vanderbilt’s Complete Book of Etiquette – A Guide to Gracious Living, 14th Edition, p. 254
“When the meal is finished, or if you leave the table during the meal, put the napkin on the left side of your plate, or if the plates have been removed, in the center.” Emily Post’s Etiquette – A Guide to Modern Manners, p. 101
“Put your napkin to the left side of your plate when the meal ends or whenever you excuse yourself from the table.” Emily Post’s Etiquette 17th Edition, p. 386
How do the wires get so crossed? Interestingly, in this particular instance, the wires were crossed by a disgruntled ex-employee! One of the pioneers of the etiquette industry, after being relieved of her position within the presidential press corps, wrote a spoof on etiquette. In it, she included the misguided instruction to place the napkin on your chair upon leaving the table. Ever since this “prank” was printed, similar advice has popped up and been handed down from one source to another, including currently circulating blogs and articles. If misguided information can spread rapidly from a typewriter, it is easy to see how the same could happen from a post seen by tens of thousands.
Be discriminating in what you accept as truth. Be vigilant in determining the source and history of a statement. Beware the internet’s ability to turn every blogger into an ‘expert’. And keep in mind the old adage, “Don’t believe everything you read”. Words to live by, indeed.