A friend ask me about this old post the other day and it occurred to me that it’s still as relevant today as it was two years ago, maybe more so…so here it is!
Epidemic of “Rude”
I’m offended. Offended almost daily. By people with no manners. People with no sense of business etiquette. People who show indifference to their fellow man (or woman). People who have forgotten how to communicate as people, face to face, over the phone or across the fence.
I think I know why. Don’t you? Shall I start? E-mail, IMs, texting, Blackberry, Bluetooth, Satellite, wireless, voicemail …and the list goes on and on. We are not experiencing “human” interaction on a daily basis. When we do, we treat it like the cold, sterile exchange we have with our “communications devices”. After all, it’s perfectly acceptable to be rude and indifferent to a “gadget”, right?
Here’s a perfect example: I have a friend (I’ll call him Tom) who constantly catches me “online” and initiates a “chat” session every time, without fail. Not wanting to ignore him, I usually give in for a few minutes of cyber chatter. As I do this, I gaze at my phone, wondering if it would have been just as easy to call and talk to each other as doing this IM session. When we were through, I picked up the phone (he was none the wiser) and dialed his number. And? You guessed it….I got his voicemail. I silently hung up. I called to talk to him, not Suzy robot, not his cheery “sorry I missed you” message. I doubt seriously that he was actually sorry, so why say it? The next time I ran into Tom, he was like a mannequin. Distracted, void of any visible emotion. Almost disconnected with our conversation. It was spooky! But expected. I could not compete with the thrill of gadgetry.
I “attempt” to interact with people every day in my current business endeavors. Unreturned phone calls, promises to the effect of “we’ll connect later” (that never connect), voicemail that gets ignored, e-mail that gets ignored and countless other acts of Rudeness. It didn’t used to be this way….
When I was a young boy, back in the sixties, we lived in a small North Carolina town. We had no computers, no cell phones, no DVDs or MP3, no IPODs, no cable or satellite service. People still went to the movies together, to the skating ring in groups, to Jones Lunch for a quick hot dog, and we could still hang out at the local drugstore and catch up on the world around us. We were not plugged-in and turned on. But I think the world turned out just fine for our generation, anyway. It was hard to be “rude” to people. Our elders didn’t tolerate that behavior too well. And the Service Industry was still a “people” industry. If Mom or Dad called about an appliance repair or a doctor appointment, they talked to a real “person”. But I digress….
Just to intercept the finger pointers, yes, I own a cell phone. When it rings, I answer it. If I miss a call, I call back. If I get an unsolicited call, I tell them up front “I’m not interested, so please, do not call me again”. I text very little (it annoys me and my eyes and fingers do not cooperate), and my friends know this up front. I also own a computer. I have IM accounts. I do not block people. If that was the case, why would I add you in the first place? If I’m at home, I answer the phone. If I see it’s for someone else, I let them leave a message for the person they wanted. If the doorbell rings, I answer it. I do not feel comfortable peeking out from behind my curtains. When I see my neighbor across the fence, I say hello. Sometimes we stand there and actually talk for awhile. About what, you say? Nothing in particular. But that’s not the point, is it? Communications…. that’s the point.
I’m just saying…let’s connect with “people” a little more. When was the last time you wrote a letter? That’s right, I said “wrote” a letter…with your hand. Or called a friend (I know…the voicemail thing, but be persistent) just to chat? Or, if someone approached you with something you have no interest in, you said thanks but no-thanks? When was the last time you were honest and straightforward?
And to the “really busy” person with the Bluetooth, sitting alone in Starbucks and multi-tasking on his “whatever-it-may-be” handheld device:
Imagine your Obituary:
“Our beloved (insert busy person’s name) passed away on October 5, 2009, after a long, lonely illness. He/she will be missed by a few Family members and countless “cyber contacts”. Text “bintouchsoon” to relay your condolences. Those matching his Blackberry contacts will be confirmed as actual mourners and appropriate burial info will be texted back, all others ignored. Services will be held via web meeting at 10:00 a.m. EST, 9 CST and 8 MST (there were no west coast contacts in his list, so we ignored it). Virtual flowers can be sent via any social networking site to firstname.lastname@example.org.”
Copyright © 2009 by Byron Suggs