One of the more interesting problems with the younger generations is their lack of etiquette within written spaces. An example of what I’m talking about is their inability to discern the difference between texts, comments, and emails. In almost all cases, they forget to move between the different language sets that each format demands – a problem that drives most of us who are older crazy.
I do have an unproven theory for this phenomenon, and it points to the issue of the smart phone. Within this one device, they move between at least four different sets of language at any given moment. Email, text, status updates, and instant messaging all require different means of engagement for these youngsters. However, because two of the four demand a speedy response, moving between them becomes a blur, and etiquette goes flying out the door as they plant a well intended emoji right smack in the middle of an email to their professor or boss without hesitation, or lambast someone publicly using the same fluid language as a text message only to be dumping within a public space with a hastily written status update.
It is easy to do, and even easier to let it go with a simple “sorry, I was in a hurry.” But the problem may not actually lie with them. There is a reason why we of the older guard let it grate on our nerves – we were taught to navigate through these different rules of engagement. Unfortunately, they haven’t.
We understand email etiquette because we were taught long ago how to properly write a letter, and the email format is designed specifically to mimic that old standard. We know not to cuss our boss out on Facebook or Twitter because we know that it is a public space, where these youngsters see social media as a means to communicate with their friends, and do not understand or comprehend the true scope of how large social media is, and how many people are actually out there watching.
We also see texting as a private endeavor that takes place between two people only, and value that privacy, where they capture specific conversations through screenshots and text forwarding in order to create a chance for blackmail or a preemptive defense when they feel they have been wronged. An ingenious way of fighting, but one that they have perfected because they do not understand that there is a ball of emotions on the other end of the text message.
I guess what I’m trying to say is simply that when these young folk break old standards of communication, it isn’t all their fault. We kinda handed them the greatest invention ever created and never really explained or trained them in how to properly use the damn thing. Nor did we explain thoroughly the consequences, even if not seen, their words have.
So if we want them to “do better,” then we need to be better ourselves, and rethink how we approach leading them into the universe that a smart phone connects them to. As it is, they see the phone as a neighborhood, and they will continue to treat it that way until we take them out of the cul-de-sac.