Friday, December 18, 2009

Text on, say I!

What is this worry about texting and “eroding” our interpersonal skills, raised by Tim Groeling, associate professor of communication studies at UCLA, a couple of days ago in the LA Times and referred to during yesterday morning’s Morning Edition? What, exactly, are the interpersonal skills Mr. Groeling’s worried about eroding?

I’m old enough to have been raised by a mother who was raised by an Edwardian mother. This means I was taught Manners growing up, which means I was taught that good human interaction followed rules. Human beings got “interpersonal” with each other within the confines of established rituals. If you deviated from either rules or rituals, you were automatically Rude. Of which there was, according to mother who had it straight from the great Ms. Manners in the Sky, no greater Social Sin.

I also had engraved calling cards and a stack of white gloves as a child, for making formal “calls” on ancient great-aunts, because that was what made ancient great-aunts comfortable.

It wasn’t until a kind housemother in girls’ boarding school explained it, that I understood what those rituals and rules—those manners—were for. They were established so to that people who didn’t know each other—or didn’t know each other very well—could still be comfortable around each other. And so that people would always know how to put other people at their ease no matter what the social situation might be.

Manners, the code name for those rituals and rules, were at heart about civil interaction.

Well, times do change. And changing along with the times has been the comfort zone of social interactions. Things are a lot less formal, a lot less structured. I don’t “call” on anyone anymore, ancient or otherwise; and, heaven forbid, that someone “call” on me, even though I am creeping up on ancient-hood.

What still endures in our social interaction is an appreciation for—and, indeed, a reliance upon—civility. Civility is the enduring, indeed the ineludible, foundation of any kind of skilled interpersonal interaction.

And I, for one, see no reason why one can’t be delightfully civil in 140 characters or less. . .

1 comment:

  1. This is funny! Thanks for a small history of manners. :)