Is there any truth to the old adage, “Young people don’t know how to behave anymore?”
Even though it generalises, doesn’t pinpoint to a specific issue, and isn’t even necessarily correct, it has merit. Its merit is in that it is usually uttered by old(er) people, those who’ve lived in a different time, a technologically-free, more tranquil, slower time. Again, a broad generalisation, but it will be successfully used as an article starter.
Most etiquette problems the modern generations face are, in one way or the other, due to technology. Whether it is social media, web, or the everyday etiquette, it is influenced by technology. The rise of online forums, social media and various chat apps called for an entirely new system of etiquette, thus far completely unknown. Obviously, a general rule of being respectful and nice applies to everything, everyone, all the time – but it called for new rules to be written and enforced.
This is our modern etiquette guide, for both online and offline situations. Follow it, and, if you’re not one yet, you’re on your way to becoming a respectful, upstanding citizen that people love to interact with.
1. Using technology in public spaces
It’s perfectly fine to use whatever technology it is at your disposal in public, provided it doesn’t bother, endanger or harm property or other people around you.
So, don’t use your shiny new drone in your local bus or train. Also, on public transport, bear in mind that others around you may not like the same music as you do, or simply aren’t in the mood for it. Turn down your MP3 player. And by the love of everything you hold sacred (Dante reserved a tenth circle of hell for people who do this), do not play your music out loud on your smartphone.
Another thing to mention technology-wise: while this is not bad etiquette, it is a lifestyle observation. If you’re a tourist in a foreign country (or just a person with not a modicum of awareness) please, do not ride around on a Segway. This is an example of interesting technology gone bad. It’s not a fun experience for anyone.
2. Online etiquette
The first rule of behaviour online is “Do not be a jerk.”
This one is very simple, straightforward, yet apparently by far the most difficult one to abide to. The anonymity of, say, internet forums gave people the ability to vent out, letting their frustrations, ideas and worldviews out in the open for everyone to see – with few repercussions (or, in most cases, none whatsoever).
That is why social media platforms, forums, and every other place on the internet where an individual can write something for the public to see are have a very enforceable, hard-set set of rules.
Also, don’t be “toxic”. This is a newly coined term for an individual on the internet who, even though not necessarily insulting and argumentative (but often is), plagues the web with redundant, unnecessary, and often ridiculous comments. That’s where the term “internet troll” comes from.
Always bear in mind the fact that behind every line written on the internet there is a human being, with feelings just like yours – interact with them just like you would in real life, but with even more caution. Scrolling hopelessly through relationship forums, a lonely person staring bleakly into a computer monitor might take your advice even more to heart than if he’d heard it from you while face to face.
3. Universal advice
A great advice for practicing good etiquette, as well as life in general, is rooted deeply in our shared fates as human beings.
Be mindful of others.
All. The. Time.
Not saying it has to turn into an obsession, or that you should sacrifice a significant amount of your own time or happiness to do so, but whenever you do something that may affect other people around you – stop to think. Think of them first. Yourself second.
As already stated, this doesn’t mean that they are suddenly to become more important to you than you are to yourself, but picture a world in which every person thinks of the person next to them before they think of themselves. What do you say?
Hey, I’m going to put my dog on a shorter leash because that old lady might be afraid of dogs; I’m going to pull my chair a bit closer to the table because I feel the person behind me doesn’t have enough room; the person selling me the chewing gum looks incredibly glum and sad, I might tell them they are really nice, or simply to have a nice day; et cetera to infinity. You won’t always be in the mood for this. You’ll often find yourself sad, lonely, hurrying here and there, stressed out, with 10,000 other things on your mind.
But as often as you can, do it. Imagine how beautiful it would be to live in a society like that. This is not some (completely) impossible utopia.
It takes empathy and compassion, easily found within all of us, but often difficult to access.
4. Arrive on time
Don’t be one of those people who are late. It shows that you don’t respect the time of the person who is waiting for you – that’s it. It’s not a thing of “it took me so long to get ready, the trams didn’t run, my dog ate my car keys.” Plan ahead and plan accordingly. Start getting ready on time, take an earlier tram; waiting a couple of minutes isn’t going to kill you.
5. Don’t crowd the doors of the bus, train, metro
Be a civilized person, not a rabid jackal. Wait until everyone gets off, then step inside.
The train isn’t going anywhere. It’s understandable that you’re in a hurry – but so is everyone else. Stay classy.
6. Stay on the right side of the escalator
Wow, this can’t be stressed enough.
London, for example, is full of escalators. London is also full of people who make the leap of faith onto an escalator and stay there, right in the middle of it, until eternity.
Or something that feels like eternity, at least. Apply rule etiquette rule number 3 and realise that there are people who might not want to stand there, men and women who have somewhere to be besides staring at your immovable pate. Stand to the right.
7. Don’t bring your child or dog everywhere you go
However cute, don’t just assume that they are invited.
That couple inviting you to their home for dinner for the first time? Leave the child and dog at home (with the babysitter, of course). Some people may not like children, dogs, dog hair, children screaming. Dog screaming, even.
Think of others first. Yourself, second.