I started my morning the usual way.
Pour the kid a bowl of cereal and put on Pirates of Penzance (it’s his current favorite).
Check email, both work and personal. Answer anything urgent, sort the rest.
Check Twitter and Facebook. Answer anything particularly pressing/funny.
Try to avoid checking my book reviews on Amazon (‘cause that isn’t my healthiest behavior). Fail and get a little nauseous.
Distract myself with an interesting looking article while I finish my coffee.
This morning, that article was from the New York Times: Disruptions: Digital Era Redefining Etiquette.
A glance at the title led me to believe that I would be reading about how having our eyes glued to our smart devices has resulted in a decline of polite behavior.
This article’s author actually seemed to be complaining about people who still engage in certain behaviors that he finds “inconvenient” in this digital age.
According to the author, people who leave him voice mails, say thank you (or even “hi”) in an email, or ask him anything that can be found via Google are wasting his time.
Wasting his precious time is rude, ya’ll. How dare you.
When I started reading I thought for sure that he was being sarcastic to make some kind of point.
Nope. Dude is seriously annoyed with you for leaving voice mails. Don’t you know how to text?
Granted, I’m an introvert who does not like being on the phone. If someone chooses to text me rather than call, I’m more likely to kiss their face* the next time I see them for sparing me from making small talk in between, “wait, are you still there? Hold on, you’re breaking up. I’m in an AT&T blackhole…”
But I don’t think it’s rude for a person to call and leave me a voice mail. As a matter of fact, I tend to get annoyed when people call me, don’t leave a voice mail, then tell me at a later date “I tried to call you” as if the presence of their number should have clued me in that the matter was urgent enough that I should call them back.
Not to mention that texting can be just as intrusive as a phone call. A call or voice mail can easily be ignored until you are ready to listen, but a text sits there on your phone’s screen, begging to be read RIGHT NOW.
And how inconvenient is it to receive an email that says “thank you” or opens with a customary greeting, like “hello”? For the record, please, I would rather you all waste three seconds of my life sending me pleasantries than the neurotic spiral that could result from the lack thereof.
Did Joe get my email? He didn’t reply with a thank you. Oh no, did I offend him? What did I say? ::promptly spends four hours reviewing every message ever sent to Joe:: Was it that joke about Canada? WAIT. Is Joe Canadian?! ::composes email to Joe about all the wonders of Canada and how much I love Canadian bacon and hockey and Prince Edward Island and reading everything in French AND English… ::
See? All of that could have been prevented with a simple “thank you” email.
And sure, if someone wants to know the best place for Thai food in town, can’t place where they’ve seen that guest star on Castle before, or where the closest Starbucks is, they could whip out a smartphone and figure it out, right?
Well, yes, if everyone has a smartphone on them (which, believe it or not, they don’t) I guess you could make the case that no one should ask anyone anything.
What happens to conversation?
If I hit Yelp for every restaurant recommendation, there goes conversations with my foodie friends about their favorites. I miss entertaining anecdotes about an awful waiter, details about great dishes but terrible bathrooms, or even entire eateries that are tucked away and haven’t hit the interwebs yet.
If I IMDB every familiar face on TV, I miss geeking out over my favorite episodes of the show that guest star was on with a fellow nerd.
If I hit Google maps to find the local Starbucks, I miss out on hearing about the electrical box in town that’s been painted to look like a Tardis. (Or depending on what Apple update I have on my phone, I may end up in a lake.)
More importantly, I miss out on conversation.
Again, I’m an introvert. I’m quite happy with peaceful days and talking to myself. But even introverts can use a little human interaction from time to time.
Looking at Mr. Bilton’s ideas on how we should behave in this digital age, I’m left feeling as if polite behavior will merely boil down to excusing ourselves when we crash into each other because we’re staring at our phone, or when we break wind on a crowded train.
(I’m assuming he’d ask for a mass text for that. No time for talk, people. I’ve got my own gas to pass!)
The older generation, or the digitally resistant, will either be forced to learn, or humored/mocked for their “old ways”.
We’ll stop saying thank you to service personnel – after all, they get that “thank you” via their pay and tips. How rude and redundant to use actual words.
Teachers will answer all questions in school with “Google it, dummy”.
When did we become a generation that complains about the niceties? About people being polite?
So, Mr. Bilton, consider this my “thank you”.
Thank you for making me remember to set aside the devices, to step away from Google, and to engage another human being at some point today.
Thank you for reminding me that pleasantries shouldn’t go out of style.
And thank you for reminding me to answer my phone with a proper, “Ahoy.”
*I will not actually kiss you on the face. You know, germs and such.