Do manners still matter?

Karen wonders if there's room for etiquette in this modern age

Credit: AngryJulieMonday

I noticed the new Emily Post’s Etiquette, 18th Edition in the bookstore the other day and my first reaction was to let out a little snicker. (As in: Who has time for etiquette lessons these days? We’re not living out a Jane Austen novel here. I have better things to do!) I promptly put the book back down on the display and made a bee-line to the magazine stand where I picked up my staple titles and then headed for the checkout. Just as I made it to the front of the line a woman with her nose buried in her BlackBerry swooped in front of me nabbed the next available teller, totally skipping the entire queue. I was incensed. And then I had to laugh. Perhaps we could all use a little refresher in everyday etiquette after all.

Myself included. I may not be too distressed about proper table settings for my next dinner party, but I know I’m also occasionally guilty of bad manners. My mother frequently notes that I talk to her while working at my laptop. “I can hear you clicking away there,” she’ll inform me a bit impatiently. What can I say? I’m an editor, so I’m always attached to a computer, and I’m busy, so sometimes I multitask. But of course, the answer to this etiquette faux pas is clear: I should give my fingers a break when my mother calls and give her my full attention.

But it gets a bit fuzzy for me — and obviously for the lady who’s too busy looking at her cellphone to pay attention to what’s going on around her — when it comes to etiquette and technology. Emily Post’s Etiquette, 18th Edition (William Morrow) contains an entire section on how to use technology with a bit more tact. (Here’s where I realize that I should have actually purchased this book — I will be going back for it!). For example, there’s advice on whether it’s OK to email a condolence or thank-you note, how to un-friend someone on Facebook and whether it’s rude or chic to tweet from a wedding. None of which I currently know the answer to, by the way.

Although the notion of proper etiquette might sound formal and old-fashioned, what we’re really talking about here is good manners, which just means being sensitive, respectful and sincere — in person, on the phone and online. I think we could all use a little refresher on that.

What etiquette faux-pas bothers you the most?

Photo by AngryJulieMonday via Flickr

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