Scott Dadich is the Editor-in-Chief for Wired magazine. His editorial in the June 2014 edition was dedicated to manners in a digital world. It’s about time! And it’s significant for a hip if not somewhat snarky magazine like Wired to take on the topic. The June issue even invited the venerable spokesman on etiquette, Jerry Seinfeld to weigh in on the subject.
I grew up in the south where the culture fostered respect for our elders and those in positions of authority by addressing them as “Sir” or “Ma’am”. Later, I was amazed to find people were offended when you responded, “yes, Ma’am” or “yes, Sir” to a question. At it’s core, politeness is a social convention that presumes we should generally show respect for each other, especially when we are in public or perhaps meeting people for the first time. It may involve subduing certain aspects of our personalities until we get to know the other person. But humans tend to take easy concepts and complicate them. We have to create rules. So manners were created as a general list of behaviors that would induce politeness. But that created divisions based on pretentiousness.
And then the Internet happened.
Now we can convey our personalities and our opinions with lightning speed to hundreds or thousands of people. The built in anonymity of the web only amplifies the tendency to be controversial and abusive. As Americans, we are proud to wrap ourselves in the First Amendment, for which we are truly blessed. But as my mom said, “just because it’s legal doesn’t make it right.” I like to think people are basically good but it is clear in some cases that if you completely remove the potential for retribution and accountability, we find what we have always known, “mean people suck”.
I don’t know how to address the issue except to talk about it. It’s time we all grew up with respect to the power of anonymous free speech provided to us by modern technology. BloggingGazelle will participate in the conversation.
And thanks to Scott Dadich for raising the issue!
BloggingGazelle is published daily by Shawn Carson