How Is Technology Affecting Modern Manners?

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How Is Technology Affecting Modern Manners?

Without social etiquette, would people still be smoking indoors? Would common courtesies such as “please” and “thank you” be thrown out the window? The fact is, social manners and rules help shape a respectable society. But in a world where the rules of social interactions are changing what feels like on a daily basis. Is etiquette actually getting worse? The more modernised and tech-savvy our world becomes, then how is technology affecting modern manners?

According to the older generation, they feel manners today are going out of the window. In a 2017 study, it was revealed that most seniors feel that social etiquette in Australia has gotten worse in the last five years (61.0%), in the last 10 years (62.9%) or in the last 20 years (59.3%). Only 26.2% of seniors believe that while culture has changed, etiquette has stayed the same.

To better understand these stats, we need to take a closer look at the impact of technology on manners, and the way social etiquette has changed over time.

The effect of technology on manners

Smartphones, social media, and 24/7 access to the Internet haven’t just changed the way we communicate – they’ve changed the etiquette that comes with communication. The question is, is this a good or bad thing?

Texting has mostly replaced calling, smartphones feel like a natural feature of the family dinner. We know everything about our blind dates before we meet them. We check our emails every chance we get, and we find out about social events we haven’t been invited to. The list goes on.

For some people, particularly the pre-Internet generation, technology is ruining common courtesy. And to be honest, it’s not an unfair view to hold. It can be hard to have a conversation without technology interrupting the flow. People are often too distracted by their phones to offer a simple “please”, “thank you” or “excuse me”. And Facebook stalking and constant Googling frequently undermines spontaneous meetups and conversations.

By the same token, some people believe technology has simply changed the rules of etiquette. Is it such a bad thing to take photos of your food and share them with all your friends? Isn’t it easier and more efficient to text than call?

The reality is – it’s a fine line. Technology has both positive and negative effects on social behaviour. Not to mention ‘common courtesy’ is more important or can mean different things, to certain people.

Old and new: what manners still matter?

We’re living busier, technologically driven lives. We communicate in brief snippets through texting and social media, and children seem to be spending more time on devices than with each other. As a result, experts believe that manners have suffered in the process.

The fact is, manners still matter. Fundamentally, having good manners is about having respect for ourselves and others. When we take the time to say “thank you” to a friend or a stranger, we’re taking time to appreciate someone. For children, good manners are crucial to their ability to build positive relationships throughout their lives.

As adults, we should know which manners matter. But for children, it’s a different story. So even though our lives are more hectic, and technology is so pervasive, it’s important to take the time to instil good social etiquette.

For starters, this can be as simple as using nice words when they’re speaking to people – such as “sorry” and “excuse me”. Come mealtime, lead by example and set some ground rules, such as no phones at the table, waiting until everyone is seated before serving, and chewing with your mouth closed.

On an interpersonal level, it’s also important to communicate properly with others. This means not interrupting while people are talking, giving them your full attention, and speaking in complete sentences – not one-word answers. 

A few manners go a long way

While manners might seem simple, the impact they have is huge. It’s worth taking a leaf out of the older generation’s etiquette handbook, reassessing the manners that matter in your life, and understanding the effect technology might be having on your social behaviour.

Shayen de Silva

Since I’ve been able to put crayon to paper, there’s nothing I’ve loved more than telling a good story.

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