Janet Sheridan: An endangered concept
October 29, 2015
Courtesy lies on its deathbed, fading away unnoticed: no letters filled with love and gratitude, no phone calls expressing concern and caring, no bedside visitors with mournful eyes and soothing hands. The windowsills of Courtesy's hushed chamber display no get-well cards or flowers, and no one has carried a casserole to Courtesy's door.
We're all busy with our technology: we don't have time for these traditional kindnesses.
True, a few of us used our technology to comfort Courtesy, but these efforts were misguided at best. Some sent sympathetic text messages but used the acronyms Courtesy deplores. When a tweeter announced Courtesy's pending death, a follower tweeted in response, "I've never heard of Courtesy. Is she a new rapper?" Others expressed sympathy on Facebook: "Thinking of Courtesy in its final days" garnered seven likes, three promises of prayer, and one response stating, "Good, it's about time."
I fear our passion for social media has caused us to abandon the commonly accepted niceties that helped us function as a compassionate society in years past. We're addicted to cell phones, keeping them with us every minute of every day in every situation.
We used to think it rude to read during dinner, peruse a newspaper in a meeting, or leaf through a magazine on a date. But today's teenagers concentrate on their smart phones in class, at dinner, and while walking home with similarly occupied friends. Meeting participants openly use computers, iPads, or phones to text, check Facebook, return emails, or play Words With Friends. Young couples ignore one another while interacting with their phones. This is a date?
When Joel and I visit our children and adolescent grandchildren, it's not unusual for six people to be gathered around the kitchen table, each fiddling with a cell phone: comparing phone models and apps, sharing photos and videos, reading and responding to texts, checking accuracy when someone claims Chicago is colder than Alaska, and Googling the answer when we can't remember who starred in Driving Miss Daisy. Sometimes, we hover around one phone, watching a You Tube video of a zebra simultaneously twirling hula-hoops on its neck and tail.
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Our grandchildren seem less discourteous than I when they drop out of a conversation to text, because they are faster. Their thumbs dance gracefully and quickly on mini keyboards with scarcely a glance at the screen. Meanwhile, I peck out text with my index finger: clumsily tapping the wrong key, insisting on correct punctuation, refusing to use acronyms, and fighting the mental confusion caused by the predictive words parading across the top of the keypad.
The younger generation can search 20 websites while I blunder about, appalled to be on a pornographic site after Googling the word "bubbles."
We're a polite family, though, we keep our phones set on vibrate and step away from the table when we take a call.
I fear that cell phones and computers have not only caused us to forget our manners, but have also dulled our communication skills, allowing us to behave as though those not with us are more important than those seated nearby. We mumble thoughtless replies to loved ones because we're fixated on a tiny screen.
My elders predicted the end of civilization, as we knew it, with the advent of TV. "What will happen to reading, conversing, and sitting outside in the evening breeze?" they wondered. "What will watching those small screens for hours at a time in a dark room do to the eyesight of our youngsters, let alone their intellect?"
I scoffed at their foolishness; as, I suppose, younger readers will scoff at my belief that Courtesy is dying.
Sheridan's book, "A Seasoned Life Lived in Small Towns," is available in Craig at Downtown Books and Steamboat Springs at Off the Beaten Path Bookstore. She also blogs at http://www.auntbeulah.com on Tuesdays.Sheridan’s book, “A Seasoned Life Lived in Small Towns,” is available in Craig at Downtown Books and Steamboat Springs at Off the Beaten Path Bookstore. She also blogs at http://www.auntbeulah.com on Tuesdays.Sheridan's book, "A Seasoned Life Lived in Small Towns," is available in Craig at Downtown Books and Steamboat Springs at Off the Beaten Path Bookstore. She also blogs at http://www.auntbeulah.com on Tuesdays.