Still having a Hotmail account can mark you out as being unsavvy and bumbling online.
That seems to be the conclusion of car insurers, including Admiral, which last month offered a more expensive premium to an undercover reporter via Hotmail than when they asked for the same quote using a trendier Gmail account.
How we behave online — the sites we visit, comments we leave, the email address we use — is increasingly important if you want to be viewed as go-getting and with it.
It’s not just potential employers who scour your online profile to assess your capabilities. Companies, friends peering over your shoulder, tend to make judgments about your age and faculties based on what you do online.
So, if you want the internet to treat you seriously — and give you a good deal — here’s how to anti-age yourself online . . .
1. Ditch the dated email address
Email domains — the part after the ‘@’ — are a giveaway as to when and how you got your first email address. Hotmail doesn’t mark you out as especially unsavvy, as insurance companies claim, though it has a poor reputation due to the volume of junk mail it allows in your inbox. Many still have a Hotmail address because the company, part of Microsoft, was one of the first to offer free email, in the late Nineties.
The real sign you are not with it is having a BT or Tiscali account because it suggests you only got email when you got the internet at home (the domains came as part of your internet package) — not when you were a student or an employee.
The worst are the now redundant Ntlworld, Blueyonder, Wanadoo or Freeserve accounts, all domains that were set up by old internet service providers. Over time, they have been bought out by bigger internet providers, notably Virgin or EE. These new owners have shut down the old addresses, insisting you move onto a more up-to-date Virgin or EE account.
Tip: Open a Gmail account. It’s part of Google and is the easiest and slickest of all. It allows you to import all your contacts from another account, including Hotmail.
2. Why it’s time to fly solo
You may think [email protected] is touching proof you believe in till death do us part, but to everyone else a shared email account is a sign you haven’t realised an email address is very different to a postal address. Having no secrets from your spouse is a wonderful part of marriage. But other people, be they your in-laws or businesses, may want to communicate only with you, not your other half.
Likewise, it is deeply confusing to receive an email in which Bob from the golf club asks where he can buy that lovely shade of lipstick he’s seen you in — before you find it’s signed ‘Ange’, Bob’s wife.
Tip: Set up your own accounts.
3. Just think of the trees
Printing out emails so you can read them more easily is not just a waste of time and (ludicrously expensive) printer ink. It is a sign you hark back to the days when faxes were cutting edge. Likewise, train, plane and cinema tickets can be downloaded to your phone and scanned on its screen.
Tip: If you are struggling to read an email, or indeed anything on your phone, you can increase the typeface size. On an iPhone go to the settings section, press ‘general,’ ‘accessibility’, then ‘larger text’ then select the size you want.
On a Samsung device you also need to press settings (the icon that looks like a cog), then ‘display and wallpaper’, then ‘font’. Then choose the size you want.
4. Beware the oversharers
Facebook and Instagram are different to a family photo album, not least because they are public.
So when Jamie Oliver posted a picture on Instagram of his baby River lying on the tiles of his kitchen floor, he probably expected hundreds of likes and heart emojis in the comment section. Which he received. He also got this message from his mother, Sally: ‘This adorable child! He looks so like you as a baby! But please get him off that hard floor now.’ Oh, the shame.
Tip: Never reveal you are someone’s mum or gran in comments. Don’t criticise their parenting skills, haircut or fashion sense. Also, don’t ask if they are coming around this weekend or if they have sent a thank-you letter to Great Aunt Mildred.
5. Post e-cards in the bin
You may think sending an e-greetings card to your grandchildren makes you part of the tech in-crowd. It doesn’t. E-cards are usually sent from a home computer and accessed by the grandchild on their phone. E-cards often come in a format incompatible with many phones, use up tons of memory and take an age to load. They were also last fashionable in 2003 (and then only for six months).
Tip: Use TouchNote, an app that allows you to convert a photo taken on your phone into an actual postcard or greetings card that is then sent through the post. It means you never have to hunt for a stamp, plus you can send them from the other side of the world and they arrive the next day.
Or, if you have the latest software on your phone, you can send an animated text. Hold down the ‘send’ or arrow key as you would when sending a text and it will give you the option to send with sound effects or with animations, such as balloons or fireworks. Good fun.
6. Let go of the ‘LOLs’
LOL does not mean ‘lots of love’, but ‘laughing out loud’ and is used to indicate that you enjoyed a joke. So the text: ‘I’m sorry to say your Great Aunt Mildred died today. LOL, Mum,’ is wildly inappropriate and marks you as someone not down with the kids.
Also, just because it has an F in the acronym does not mean it’s rude. FYI: for your information, FTW: for the win. The problem is that many of these acronyms have a shelf-life as long as a pot of yoghurt. No one uses YOLO (‘you only live once’) anymore and ROFL (‘rolling on the floor laughing’) marks you out as ancient.
Tip: Avoid acronyms. Use emojis — the jolly little smiling faces and other pictures — instead.
7. Say it with a smile
Many sneer at emojis, thinking they are infantile. But they are a clever way to inject a bit of nuance into a text or online comment, which is often difficult to achieve in one line of written English.
But remember, people rarely — unless they are discussing a recipe — use the aubergine emoji to indicate the purple vegetable as it signals something more risque. The peach is also usually a substitute for another body part.
Tip: Use emojis sparingly. Don’t scatter them like confetti; use one judiciously or at the end of a message to indicate mood or tone. The most useful emoji (especially for parents) is the rolling eye emoji, to show wry weariness at something your child has said.
The clapping hand’s emoji is less ambiguous than ‘well done’, which can come across as sarcastic. The face red with anger is also a useful substitute for ‘how many times have I told you to write a thank you letter to Great Aunt Mildred.’