Have you ever sat down and pondered if you were a rude person? Do you do things that are rude? Say things that are rude? Are you uncouth or uncivil? Impertinent perhaps?
I’ve thought about this a lot. While my personality lends itself towards a propensity for being blunt, disliking “small talk” and liking a lot of alone time, when it comes down to it, I’m not a rude person. I’m actually quite friendly and can talk the ears off of perfect strangers if it’s a subject that interests me. I’m the person who gets cornered by the sweet, elderly women on planes who spend the whole flight telling me their life stories (I was seated next to Molly Sims‘ grandmother’s best friend, so she said, once on a trip to Las Vegas – for real and very random). I’ve humored talkative drunks in bars and entertained waiters in restaurants. I’m able to hold my own in a give-and-take conversation and will focus on the person or people I’m with because I want them to feel important and worthy of my consideration. I’m that person.
What I see more frequently these last few years, when the younger generations became all thumbs-and-texts, was a dearth of conversation. A lack of respect. A predilection to ignore the person present in lieu of the cell phone, iPad, eReader or whatever electronic communication device was in hand.
At first, I was pondering writing a post – a rantling if you will, on cell phone usage and how terribly, terribly rude people are becoming with whipping out their little “Electronic Leash”. But, my Friends, it is more than that; while I think computers, and therefore the internet, are wonderful things, I also believe that they are responsible for the general lack of propriety, comportment and inability to converse with our fellow man.
Case in point. I was out to lunch a while ago with a friend and during conversation the friend kept checking their phone. I would stop speaking. Friend would look up and say, “I’m listening, you can keep talking.” My response was, “No, I’ll wait until you’re finished.” The simple fact was that I was speaking with them in what I had thought was a conversation, not a one-sided diatribe. There was no give-and-take repartee. There was no respect and I felt unimportant and unworthy.
Dear Readers, I have a cell phone, I’ve had one for many years, but I resist the urge to frantically reach for, and check, it every five minutes. When I’m out to dinner with friends, my phone is tucked away in my purse and it’s only brought out if someone asks the time, inquires about a particular calendar date or a few other valid reasons to take the phone out. Once Mr. Muse teased me about being “one of those people” when I’d gotten my phone out to check something (by request). He won’t be making that joke again as he now has a smartphone and is still in the honeymoon phase of owning it.
I like to think I have a strict sense of decorum and adhere to a code of etiquette when I’m “out”, and unless I’m with someone who explains after the initial greeting that they’re “waiting for an important phone call”, I get very perturbed about Frequent Phone Checking. No one is more important than the person one is with, and if you are compelled to constantly check your phone when out with others, what does that say about you? I’ll say it, you’re rude. Period.
This culture of shorthand responses has bled into face-to-face conversations, or lack of them, to the point where trying to having a meaningful discussion about anything is reduced to trying to decipher one-word responses or guttural sounds. Was that grunt a “yes” or a “no”? Like Johnny 5, I need more input. People have taken to interrupting others with incredible persistence, disallowing them to finish sentences, thoughts even entire words or just flat-out ignoring them. Even trying to have a conversation about serious subjects is reduced to a frustrating combination of standing ones ground and batting away misguided (and oh-so-unfunny) “jokes” about sex. I’m sorry, I fail to see the connection between frac-sand mining and sex.
I put the question out there on Facebook and Twitter, “Do you think cell phones and social media are making people rude? More rude? Socially inept? Unable to hold a conversation?
#Letmeknow“. One response that I received permission to share was:
So what do we do? We put away the phones (on silent). We actually have conversations about things other than “did you see what so-and-so said on Facebook” or the newest reality show. We stop “face-palming” anyone who disagrees with our point of view and actually make an effort to understand their perspective. We step up our game and stop being rude, unseemly and boorish. We stop being disrespectful. We make concerted efforts to make sure the people we’re with feel important and worthy of our consideration.
*Since I wrote the first draft of this a couple years ago, the “Poke” feature has become less visible and it’s not used nearly to the extent it had been. I’m happy about that.