The flaming email — we’ve all received them. We might even admit we’ve sent one. Maybe not a flame that rages like a “Howler” in Harry Potter, but certainly one that smolders. While we think of internet flames as caustic remarks on public message boards, PC Magazine defines to flame as “to communicate emotionally via email.” If that’s the case, I’m definitely guilty of flaming, as are some people who have emailed me without pausing to re-read or reconsider before hitting “send.” Numerous publications have explored the flame phenomenon, including Wired and the New York Times. Flaming arises in part due to a key problem with the email genre — namely, the brain’s inability to discern “tone” in the absence of facial and voice cues. To me, however, email flames are more than poor “netiquette:” they reflect how manners are changing not only in our cyber-communities, but also in our “real time” relationships.
I bristle when I enter a bistro or church service, and I see a man wearing a baseball cap. While I realize such behavior is ubiquitous and even accepted in our culture, it still bothers me. I can’t help it: I was raised in the South at a time when gentlemen removed their caps while attending church or dining inside. They opened doors for ladies – didn’t just hand off door handles like relay batons to females entering behind them.
Yet I wonder, what IS it that causes us to “forget” our manners? Are we in too much of a hurry? Consider, for example, the school carpool line. Drivers actually try not to recognize each other. Allowing a car to merge ahead of you is a sign of weakness, as is a wave of thanks from the “merger” to the rare person who lets her merge. It’s the driver’s job, after all, to stay isolated and maneuver as quickly as possible to her destination. [Read more…]