If you’re a parent, this is a familiar moment. In the elevator, sixteen years ago, no mistaking it was heard by the “lady” in question. Children make observations. Out loud. Sometimes, really loud. I have a friend who used to call these moments “beyond embarrassing.” True, but these are also necessary, so we can teach our children about courtesy, manners, and develop their filters.
I am no Miss Manners, nor do I long for the days of yesteryear when everyone filtered everything and a mention of indigestion caused a nervous titter among those seated at the dinner table. But basic courtesy, stopping to think about what how a comment might be received before letting it pass your lips–or fingers, I’m all for it.
I’m pretty sure each generation tweaks what they consider appropriate in polite company. Ok. I’m a product of my generation; I love jeans, casual conversations, political debates, no holds barred comics, and colorful language. I’m also pretty sure I could raise my blood pressure and feel myself turn bright red if I began to catalogue all the times I’ve put my foot in my mouth. I don’t see these things as the antithesis to courtesy and civility.
But Houston, I do believe we, as a generation, have a problem.
There seems to be a collective loss of our filter. Keyboard warriors are running amok on our internet forums, Facebook, and the comment section of every cyberboard I visit.
The internet has become a huge part of how we connect and communicate with each other. As I’ve said previously, I love the internet, the ways it has opened my mind and my world, the friends it has brought me. I think it’s made me a more thoughtful person. Maybe because I’m a writer, but the need to think about how each comment will be read and interpreted has been front and center in my mind from the very first forum I participated in. Am I always successful at making myself understood, and avoiding bruised feelings? No, but I try, and I’m aware. Emoticons are helpful, but they don’t take the place of real life facial expressions, body language, and tonal inflections.
Yesterday, I was following a political discussion on Facebook. We all know those can get acrimonious. But this discussion turned a bit frightening. A not so vague threat was made. This is an extreme example, but not uncommon enough, either. In this day and age, predatory behavior feels more threatening than ever, because the magical internets can make someone three thousand miles away uncomfortably close, and bring them to your door with a few clicks. Not just figuratively, but literally, because it’s all to easy for someone with malicious intentions to find out where you live,work, etc. Without hesitation, this conversation, and this person, raised the hairs on my neck more than the the guy I saw growling to himself as he systematically rooted through the garbage bags when I was walking the beasts last night.
Google, and you’ll find countless quotes on civility, manners, basic courtesies, and the importance of these to a successful society. My question is this; am I just old, noting a societal shift into more casual behaviors and speech patterns becoming acceptable, thinking this represents more than it does? Or are we truly losing our filter, losing our ability to care about someone else’s feelings more than our own need to project our opinions and thoughts?