My childhood friend Jane Sibbett in high school signing my yearbook with my nickname, which was “Merz.”
Some rules may go out of style, but good manners never do. And although the rules of etiquette change faster than we can keep track of, we still judge a book by its cover. The face you present to the world is the face you will be judged by. We have become a self-absorbed society, but that doesn’t excuse bad behavior. Everything we say and do takes place at lightning speed, so we have to pay attention to our words and actions constantly.
There are those who believe that many of the old etiquette rules no longer apply. As someone who has been teaching etiquette rules for close to twenty years, I have to say I disagree with this. For instance, even if you spend most or all of your phone time on a Smartphone, why would you behave any differently than on a landline? The same rules apply: you say your name when you answer the phone, you are polite, you listen to the other person without interrupting, and you say goodbye at the end of the call. All of this should be true even if we’re walking down the street or rushing to an appointment versus of sitting at a desk.
It’s definitely the case that dress has become more casual today; neckties are no longer required at most places, and the sport coat is the new suit. But hats still should not be worn indoors, and trainers have no place in a fine restaurant or at an opera performance.
Speed is a friend of social media, yet oftentimes we hit Send before we’ve had a chance to think. I have done this more than I care to admit. When this occurs, mistakes happen. Unless we go back and read our posts right away to edit them, trouble can easily begin. I don’t think most people mean to be so rude online unless they are full-fledged bullies, but when you don’t meet face to face you don’t see eye to eye. It’s that simple. Without body language and intonation to guide our every move, we are the blind leading the blind.
My childhood friend Jane Sibbett, an American actress and comedian, known for her role as Ross Geller’s wife on the sitcom Friends, had this to say about etiquette: “Rules are necessary to help us navigate the wide, wide world of social media.” The same rules apply as if you were sending a letter: be polite; start and end on a positive note; check for spelling mistakes; don’t type in all caps which is the equivalent of screaming; and don’t post photos that you will later regret as your cyber DNA is here to stay. You get the picture? This is important information, especially for the millennial population. They are learning through the college application process as well as the job search that universities and employers do check your online profiles. You never get a second chance to make a first impression in person or online, so think twice before you choose the username firstname.lastname@example.org.