Common Courtesy Becoming Less Common

Actions once considered common courtesy are being ignored as the times change.

Graphic designed by Britany Rodriguez

Actions once considered common courtesy are being ignored as the times change.

Lauren Cincotta, News Editor

Humans are social creatures. As a species, humans are designed to connect with others. Our daily lives are filled with so many interactions that each one may not seem significant. However, we all have a responsibility to ourselves and to each other. Positive words and actions can have a profoundly positive effect on others. Unfortunately, our negative words and actions can hurt people more than we realize or intend.

Social media was designed for people to increase their connections with others. None of the founders of any social media platform could have predicted just how toxic it would become. Without actually seeing the person you are communicating with, people feel bold enough to say things that they may not say in real life. Cruelty is so widespread on these platforms that even if someone might not be looking for it, they can easily find several examples.

The culture on social media platforms has shifted from meaningful connections to a need to belittle and criticize others for their opinions or actions and the need to “clap back” when someone does it to you. Being critical and looking for problems with others does not make anyone feel good. The momentary thrill received from putting someone down or “clapping back” in retaliation to a comment somebody made does not last as long as the good feeling a positive interaction would give you.

Although social media companies have slowly begun to address these toxic situations, the bulk of the problem lies with users. In other words, the answer to this problem is basic human decency. Society cannot rely on a computer system to filter out negative voices, only people can do that. In some cases, drastic measures have to be taken. Recently, Kensington Palace released new social media guidelines with the goal of reducing negative comments on the palace’s social media channels. Most of these negative comments have been made concerning Duchess Catherine (Kate) Middleton and Duchess Meghan Markle. Meghan, who married into the royal family last spring, has faced abuse on social media since her engagement was announced in 2017. It is not only royalty who have to endure online abuse. The modern culture of criticism and aggression makes anyone a target.

Cruelty is not limited to online platforms. It is sometimes easier to observe there, because it is visible written words. If society conducted itself better in real life, this toxic atmosphere would not have carried itself over to social media platforms when they were introduced. It might not be staring us in the face the way we see it online, but overall, people do not treat each other kindly.

For years, people have paused to wonder, is civility dead? Civility is defined as “ formal politeness and courtesy in behavior and speech”, according to Oxford Dictionaries. This includes basic manners taught in childhood, saying please and thank you, apologizing when you have done something wrong and, above all, having respect for everyone.

Having good manners is crucial to being respected by others. Taking time to honestly thank someone for what they have done for you may seem awkward, but will truly be appreciated by the other party. Even small courtesies, like holding the door open for someone or politely greeting one another in the hallways are part of the larger concept of civility. Speaking respectfully to and of others, is something that people frequently have trouble putting into practice.

Especially when someone acts negatively toward you, it can be harder for you to look past that and see them as an individual worthy of your respect and courtesy. The use of derogatory language or swearing seem to have completely infiltrated daily conversation. Some argue that society has become desensitized due to increased usage. However often they are used, words have power. Certain words have different power over others than they might have on the person using them. One of the best ways to avoid offending people or otherwise being considered rude is not using these crude words that are not meant for common conversation. Although nobody is perfect and we all have lapses in civility, if we made a conscious effort to look for opportunities to be a positive influence in someone’s life the world would be a better place.

Being a “nice” person has an immensely positive effect on each individual as well. Being kind has several effects on the brain including the release of hormones that can reduce stress and increase self esteem and happiness. Studies also show that being kind can increase lifespan and decrease body aches and pains. Engaging in kind acts can also decrease depression. All of these positive effects make being kind to others worthwhile. Not to mention that when you are kind to others, it is easier for others to be kind to you. Several studies have come out over the years to validate these claims. The science of being kind is a real thing with effects that are life changing.

Imagine a world where people felt welcomed and respected wherever they went, and did not judge or act rudely to others. Imagine if people could interact on social media without berating each other for every little thing. This is possible, but a computer cannot do this for us. We cannot place all of the blame on tech companies and social media platforms. We cannot blame each other or society for lack of manners. We have to be positive. Science has shown us the kindness is contagious, it can be spread from person to person, but someone has to start. Consider it your responsibility to make someone’s day a little better, it will help change the world.