Monday, November 26, 2007

How Technology Spawns Rudeness

I'm a notorious planner. I like to know what's happening and when, and I don't think that's so terrible. Generally, I call when I say I'll call and I show up where I'm supposed to be. I even enjoy helping people move because it lets me plot things out and solve problems. I try to account for the personality quirks of others and be compassionate, but the truth is I can't stand flakiness. There's a control freak side of me that I try to use for good and not evil.

I'm also a complete technophobe. I don't like to talk on the phone, I don't own a computer, I don't watch television, I can't work an iPod and I think the Bluetooth is completely creepy (like you're trying to become one with your cellphone).

Mix these two things together, and we have the point: I think technology has spawned crappy manners. Why respond Yes or No when Evite hands you the option of Maybe? Why return calls promptly when you know your friends are accessible by cellphone 24 hours a day? Why send a handwritten thank you note when you can point and click an Ecard in 20 seconds? Why go to the mall and select a gift when you can email a giftcard in 30 seconds?

I've been guilty of all of these things. Sure, a cocktail party sounds fun, but will I feel the same way three days from now when the party starts? And I lost my address book ages ago, so maybe I'll just send an email thank you. I don't like that restaurant, so I'll check in later and see what's up for coffee. I don't like to talk on the phone, so I'll just send an email in the morning.

The purpose of etiquette isn't to make life more complicated. Things like multiple forks and fish knives completely flummox me, and I can't set a formal table to save my life. I don't enjoy dressing up and every maitre 'd in the world has the capacity to intimidate me. Even the ones that look like organ grinder monkeys.

The purpose of etiquette is to make life a little simpler. It gives society a bit of structure and encourages kind and thoughtful behavior. The little pleasantries, like always responding to invitations, allow other people to plan. It's comforting to others to know what they can expect. Especially for anything which requires reservations, tickets, or the purchasing of food (like dinner parties).

So, I vote we make technology a non-factor in our manners. Next time you get an Evite, respond as if it's an engraved invitation delivered by a liveried footman. Especially if it's an Evite from me.


dcnative said...

oh yeah, I was wondering why half the people I evite don't RSVP... and then they unexpectedly show up at my party??

Michael J. West said...

Why is "maybe" a bad response on eVites? Sometimes I really want to come to something, don't know whether I'll be able to, but intend to try. Would it really be preferable to, if I'm not sure, just say "no" and not bother trying?

Shannon said...

Mike -

It depends on the intent of the "maybe" - say, you would really like to attend, but you have a big work deadline and may be stuck at the office. Then you explain the situation to the host and the "maybe" answer is perfectly acceptable.

However, "maybe" is sometimes used improperly. The person either isn't sure whether they'll feel like attending, or, worse, because they're holding out for a better offer and you're their backup plan. In that case, yeah, "maybe" is rude.

Shannon said...
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