Victoria Cotman sees the incoming flood of rudeness washing away all traces of etiquette, as she tries to make us see the warning signs.
One could say that a generation can be identified by their taste in music, dance moves and even who they see as Batman. Rapidly, though, another marker is emerging: the ability to be polite and behave appropriately, otherwise known as “etiquette.”
It’s an old-fashioned word and a practice that was developed to ensure one could never offend. However, with the rise of technology and social media, we are finding new and exciting ways to be offensive as the gentle art of good behaviour is fading away as the next generation progresses.
Which makes absolutely no sense.
I will admit up front, I’m a bit of a stickler for these things. I have been heard at black tie weddings yelling things like “Black Tie doesn’t mean you wear a black dress, it’s a wedding!” and “If you were meant to wear a cocktail dress, the invitation would have said ‘cocktail’!”
I am a stickler because I find the lack of etiquette fantastically rude.
As a member of Gen Y, I grew up with the Internet but didn’t have a mobile until High School and social media until University. My friends and I learned each other’s address by heart and sent out paper invitations to events. If we said we were going to be somewhere, damn it – we were there.
We simply didn’t have the luxury of bailing at the last minute, how would we contact the host to tell them??
So why is it that despite being more connected than ever before, people can’t seem to follow instructions? Date. Time. Dress code.
The answer is simple: social media. Events these days are organised, for the large part, on Facebook. The main snag is that social media creates a sense of anonymity and impersonality. A Facebook invitation appears like a mass invite to the millions, so one feels the host won’t miss them if they’re not there, won’t notice if they don’t respond, or will be so consumed with the other invited guests, won’t care if they RSVP as “attending”, but never show up.
Furthermore, the innate casual nature of a Facebook invitation breeds a sense of flexibility – as if, should you attend, you can turn up whenever regardless of start time and you can wear whatever regardless of location or dress code.
This is simply not true. You have genuinely been invited to an event and the digital nature by which you were invited is the reason you should be there, not the reason you shouldn’t.
With all our technology, ignorance or forgetfulness simply isn’t a legitimate excuse.
When you respond “attending” to a Facebook event you will not only get a reminder from Facebook on the day of the event, but your iPhone will ask if you want to create an event in your calendar. You now have two places on which you can check time and date. Facebook events provide a handy-dandy map to the location.
Failing that, there’s always Google and Maps to get you there.
That’s three ways by which you can find the location. If you are running late or can no longer make it you can leave a message on the event’s wall, on the host’s wall, in the host’s inbox, text or call them – that’s FIVE different ways by which you could reach out.
There is literally no excuse for ill manners in the digital age. None.
While it’s a shame to admit that I have friends my age who are guilty of these social snubs, it is far sadder to think we may be the last generation who even knows what “RSVP*” means.
If we all, particularly the younger amongst us, don’t figure out how to apply classical etiquette to our digital lives then manners may one day, be lost completely.
This may, at first thought, seem like a relatively small loss (who amongst us misses have a hat doffed in our direction?), however it’s the start of a murky path. Imagine a world where social graces have been totally erased. Hazarding a guess, I think it would look something like Grand Theft Auto. That is to say – the end of civilisation.
It won’t just be a death knell to social events as invitations start to lose their meaning, but also a rise in the aggressive rudeness we already see, germinating in the form of internet trolls.
Currently, we keep a tight, polite lid on ourselves.
It’s what makes us say “Excuse me”, instead of “Get the fuck out of my way!” If, however, manners lose the battle against the sense of anonymity that digital life provides us – what is to stop people from simply shoving past?
Why would one ask politely for something when they just can take it and then walk away with their headphones in – totally unaware of any fall-out?
Why would we stop ourselves from cussing someone out when we felt like it?
How long would it be before the verbal mayhem turned physical and the descent to anarchy?
I’m not being alarmist. Seriously. Spend an evening in Los Santos and get back to me.
It is true that manners maketh man, for without them we are but animals. High-tech, rude, uncivilised animals. Without someone holding fast to old values the difference in generations will one day make us look more like a different species.
*Répondez S’il Vous Plaît (Respond Please)