Times are changing, that is evident. What used to be customary, thoughtful behavior, and generally respectful conduct, seems now to be fading, as technology seeps its way into the culture at a record pace. Our overflowing lives might be morphing our daily conduct into patterns that are causing some serious disturbances.
At some point, we'll be forced to more seriously address and implement conduct applying to Facebook, texting, cell phones, emails and IMs. Because our relationships are suffering, our connectedness is fading and, ultimately, we will feel the effects to the point where we will simply have to take them seriously.
For now, what about all the other stuff, the stuff that used to be? The things we used to remember to do. The thought we used to put into the gestures and generosity and social graces of our friends? Without thinking too much, we all used to show respect and regard for one another in little, tiny ways that made our world an easier, more appreciative place.
I'm not even addressing words such as etiquette and protocol. They are merely words. But once upon a time, good manners and people who displayed graciousness were the people who kept morale and decency something cool and appealing.
I've received dozens and dozens of letters regarding people's frustration with what seems to be a widespread issue regarding the lack of respect and thought from guests invited to social gatherings.
The concern begins with a notice of the absence of sending an RSVP. Yes, a lack of responding when invited to a social gathering. From what I'm reading, we are seemingly sinking to a level socially that borders on pathetic with its lack of social grace.
Could we be living in a time when responding to a party has become too much of a burden to take on? Clearly, if this keeps up, in another half decade, it will be solidified. And what was deemed completely socially unacceptable will indeed become the norm.
Which begs the question: Is this who we want to be to one another?
Ten years ago we received most of our invitations for social gatherings in our mailboxes outside our homes. And nowhere on them were we able to view the other guests who were invited. We were given a time, a day and an occasion. And we RSVP'd within a certain time frame with a phone call, yes or no.
High-Tech but Out of Touch?
Email invitations are the growing, easy, paper-free alternative, with only weddings and very large functions remaining the exception, for now. Through these invitations we are actually provided a list of invitees.
We are able to read who will attend and who will not and why they will not attend. We are even informed through email about the status of attendance.
We're provided an opportunity to let our host know we will "maybe" attend. Yet often, we still don't respond.
The method has obviously changed, but so have we. Has the electronic option for social purposes dumbed down our manners?
Here is my thought and reminder. Failing to RSVP, forgetting a gift, skipping a party, showing up in the last half-hour, handing in a maybe, and not following up with a concrete answer -- and in your mind imagining it's OK to not have acknowledged an invite -- are all behaviors that directly shout out to our generous hosts that we have little to no regard for them.
Whether you intend that to be the message or not, it is how it's received.
I am hearing the anonymous, aghast and frustrated responses on a daily basis from the hosts of gatherings all across the country.
Perhaps we should go back to imagining what our parents might say, and what we hope to remind our own children: To do the right thing, it makes for a better world. Yes, in a small way, decent and thoughtful behavior adds to all of our lives.
As we ride the wave of change, it is crucial for the integrity of relational social behavior that we remain conscious of how our behavior is met with those we care about in the world.
Occasionally, it's possible to look at the entire picture of change and notice something so small it might look to be the size of a bleep on a huge world screen. It's the tons of bleeps on that screen that ultimately, however, make a difference.
Our job might be to pay enough attention to catch ourselves in time, so that we can continue to model and pass on the practice of kind and thoughtful behavior toward one another.
Regardless of the changes that take place in our world, people remain people. Feelings and emotions remain the same inside of us. Technology will never change that.
What can we do?
We can keep close in our minds the old notion that we want to treat others as we would like to be treated. Small acts of decency in large numbers make life-changing impact.
Next time you receive an invitation, you know what to do.