A Decent Respect

Sep 13, 2012 by

“Every Action done in Company, ought to be with Some Sign of Respect, to those that are Present.” George Washington, 110 Rules of Civility & Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation

I was using a piece of modern technology the other day and having a chat about the convenience of technology with a colleague. I was not actually looking at her, since I was engaged with my task, and she with hers. She asked, “Was it hot outside”? I responded with “About as hot as yesterday”. There was a slight pause and then she asked, “What are you doing”? I responded, but it seemed like an odd question. She then asked,

“Are you at home, where are we going to meet”? I was puzzled at the question so I turned to look at her and discovered that she stopped our conversation and had answered her cell phone. Instead of creating an awkward moment like that, would not it have been more civil to say “excuse me I have a call”?

A similar incident happened while my wife and I were sitting at a guest table at a celebration. The person I was talking to at the table asked me a question, and as I was answering, he cut me off to respond to a cell phone call using his clever Lieutenant Uhura earpiece (for fans of Star Trek). Here I go, what is wrong with people? Are we that disconnected from people that are right in front of us? When we choose technology over people, we loose control of technology and the more technology will control us. This passion for the immediate gratification technology provides will unravel any connection we have left to each other.

George Washington’s Rules of Civility & Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation have a common focus. The common focus is that enlightened people exhibit civility by the respectful interaction between themselves and others, rather than the base motivation of unenlightened self-interest that pollutes relationships today. The most important environment we should be cleaning up is our society.


  1. Anonymous

    As someone much younger, I have never come in contact with someone so shrouded in technology as parents seem to believe exists. I see two reasons for this: First, it is true that wearing wireless headsets and other concealed devices are not as “cool” with the younger crowd as they are with the older, because we would much rather hold big, bright technology packed with features than technology you aren’t supposed to notice. In addition, in the older crowd there exists a conflict between those who have caught onto the “wave of the future” and are obsessed with its practicalities, while others refuse to bloat themselves with technology and despise those who do. In contrast, my generation has grown up with technology all around us, and so we are all equally accustomed to it. We have much more of a mutual contract with technology than older generations do, and so while adults consider it as shunning others by technology, we consider it as a much wider, simultaneous social web that is as much a part of us as personal interaction. Also, adults who are more accustomed to human interaction prefer calling each other, while we prefer text messages, which are both less intrusive and less time-consuming.

    However, as the number of social interactions tainted by technology you have experienced seems strangely even above the norm for adults of your generation, it does beg the question: could it also be the fault of one person that makes others around him turn to technology as an escape?

  2. Vince Giglio

    “Also, adults who are more accustomed to human interaction prefer calling each other, while we prefer text messages, which are both less intrusive and less time-consuming.”

    Are you serious? Communication with people is intrusive and time-consuming? Maybe a deserted island is preferable for you. Yes, I do prefer human interaction and talking with people at length to discuss their ideas especially if they disagree with mine. Maybe, I will even learn something of substance, and grow in my connection to humanity. I love people, they are not intrusive, and they are an integral and indispensable part of life. It is never a waste of time to bond in a substantive/intellectual way with another person. Isn’t that why you wrote this lengthy response to my observation?

    I am not an opponent of new technology. If you recall it was my generation and the generation before mine that brought this technology to the world. In addition, technology has been around since Adam and Eve picked up a stick to draw a picture in the dirt. I am simply stating the fact that it is not being used properly. It is reasonable that technology be used for its intended function. Devises for communication should foster meaningful dialogue, not simply disperse bits of information. Communication must improve human understanding and advance the human connection/condition, or it will become a waste of time.

  3. Aliza K Giglio

    I found this back and forth dialogue to be specifically intriguing to me. I,personally, love technology and appreciate it for all of its strengths and WEAKNESSES imposed on our societies/generation(s).

    I specifically wanted to comment on the core sentence being examined:

    “Also, adults who are more accustomed to human interaction prefer calling each other, while we prefer text messages, which are both less intrusive and less time-consuming.”

    The youth of today take for granted our abilities to contact someone within an instant. In my opinion, we (the younger generations) lack the understanding that just because we now have the ability to tell the world all of our information and day to day activities does not mean that the value of human interaction is diminished or debased.

    If all 300 of my Facebook friends know that I ate ice-cream at 9 p.m. last night at cold stone and got a killer brain freeze, then whoop-dee-doo. What would make that experience so amazing isn’t how quickly and “less time-consuming” Facebooking it is, rather, it would be the chance to share the experience with loved ones or friends who could actually see the look on my face and laugh with me about it.

    Anywhoozers, just a little late night thinking!

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