How Manners Have Changed Over Time

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Sewanee University of the South
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There is no denying that peoples social etiquette and manners have changed substantially over the last several decades or so. Human beings originally embraced manners as a social lubricant. It was a way of showing that an individual understood what it meant to be a civilized person. For such a person, having manners meant following societys rules and regulations so as to leap the benefits offered by civilization. Although good manners do not cost anything, it seems that they have gradually become erased as time went by. Display of respect, respectful behavior, politeness, and showing care and consideration for others all seem to be a thing of the past. This essay looks at how manners have changed over time.

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According to Van Norden (2016), there are a number of behaviors that are acceptable today that were unacceptable in the past. For instance, pre-marital sex was unheard of at the beginning of the 20th century. Nowadays, it is common for both men and women to have multiple sexual partners before they get married. In the past, ladies were expected to remain virgins until they their wedding night. This is no longer the case. There may still be some stigma associated with having several sexual partners, particularly for women. However, people are always looking for excuses to have premarital sex, arguing that it has become the norm. It seems that the societys expectations on matters to do with sex affect women more than they do to men. For instance, single men in the past were not stigmatized for having multiple partners. On the other hand, if unmarried ladies had sex, it was a shameful act that made them to be perceived as sluts. To make matters, getting a child out of wedlock was considered a major taboo in the past. Nowadays, the number of single mothers is on the increase to the extent that it is now an acceptable norm.

Modern technology has made a significant contribution to the erosion of manners and etiquette over time. The advent of new technology, particularly in communication, has definitely made people more self-centered and distracted, both of which lead to bad manners. Its true that technology has made it easier for people to communicate irrespective of the distance between them. However, there are times when its users become so engrossed in it that they forget other people around them as well as basic courtesies. This makes them indulge in behaviors that they regret afterwards (Sankar, Sriprabha, Kumar & Kumar, 2016).

There are so many ways in which technology has made manners to deteriorate. A good example is in the use of gadgets such as mobile devices in public places. While there is nothing wrong with owning a cellphone, having it ring at public places or events causes a rude disturbance. Another bad habit involves wearing earphones at all times. Some people have a bad habit of listening to music with earphones while in the company of family members or friends. Such people then wonder why everyone around them is silent, not realizing that the habit communicates to others that the individual does not wish to be disturbed. Also, the use of shorthand and abbreviation when sending text messages is another violation of etiquette caused by technology. It often causes miscommunication since there is a huge segment of people who misinterpret these messages. According to McCord & Scholl (2016), invading the personal space of others by talking on cellphones loudly, answering calls or sending text messages during meals and cyber bullying are other examples bad manners influenced by technology.

In a way, personal technology makes is easier for individuals to be rude. Such rudeness is especially prevalent in public places. It is also unconscious in that some people are not aware what they are doing is a lack of manners or that it annoys those around them. Individuals act as if they are going through life in isolation whereby only they and the person they are talking to on a mobile device can hear them. In addition to speaking loudly, they also discuss things that others around them do not really wish to hear. Public spaces are quite important to users; just like the quality of time that people spend there. It appears as if the rising use of technology is a chain reaction. Initially, only a small number of individuals violate what manners dictate. Afterwards, more and more people adopt such behavior in a way that it becomes the norm (Yoo, Arhontes, Hunt & Pollak, 2012).

It is worth noting that there is a difference between good manners and etiquette. When it comes to etiquette, it is all about protocol and rules that vary across various cultures and which can be learnt. All in all, someone being aware of etiquette does not necessarily make him or her a nice person. Being nice is the basis for compassion and empathy- two traits of human beings that seem to be lacking in people nowadays. If someone displays ideal etiquette but has an unpleasant or unfriendly personality, then it is just not worth it.

Albert Einstein once stated that he was afraid one day technology would surpass human interaction, leading to a generation of idiots. If we do not do something about it, his prediction might turn out to be true. There are several ways in which society has reacted in an attempt to combat lack of etiquette. For instance, some businesses and established place signs asking people not to use mobile devices while in their premises. However, making people improve their manners will definitely be difficult given how stubborn and arrogant the vast majority of them are.


McCord, K. A., & Scholl, J. (2016). Common Courtesies: Teaching Young People American Etiquette Through 4-H. Journal of Youth Development, 2(3), 144-148.

Sankar, G., Sriprabha, M., Kumar, S. S., & Kumar, R. S. (2016). Interactive Etiquette Activities and Work Dimensions in Secondary Language Learners: A Study. Cross-Cultural Communication, 12(9), 16-18.

Van Norden, B. W. (2016). Principles, Virtues, or Detachment? Some Appreciative Reflections on Karen Stohrs On Manners. Dao, 15(2), 227-239.

Yoo, M., Arhontes, N. J., Hunt, B., & Pollak, D. (2012). Got Manners? Proper Etiquette for Today's Professional: Put Your Best Foot Forward, Every Time and Everywhere!. Proceedings of the Water Environment Federation, 2012(15), 1655-1668.

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