1. The overwhelming and seemingly universal ability to say things to people that you wouldn’t have the balls to say to their face
Sure, this can be a good thing, like when you bond with a person over the Internet because it seems like a safe zone relative to the physical world. But when it causes people to be rude, hurtful, and cruel, it’s failing us. Louis C.K. talks about this in that great clip from his most recent visit to Conan. He says that it’s our inability to see someone’s physical reaction when we’re writing online that makes us so much more willing to say hurtful things. Online, many more people can become bullies than would become bullies in real life.
2. Not answering emails when a response is required or, at the very least, courteous
For example, responding “Thanks anyway,” when you ask someone to do something and they can’t do it (props to writer Emily Gould for mentioning this on Twitter recently). The “new normal” seems to be to respond to a decline with utter silence, or even to respond to a request with utter silence! Again, this seems to come from not having to look at people face-to-face when we e-mail or text. But unless you are dead, you are checking your e-mail, probably about eight thousand times a day. So surely you could zip off a one-sentence e-mail to someone thanking them for their time or effort. Don’t be the person who leaves a correspondence hanging. I think it’s always better to be the one left hanging when it comes to etiquette, online and off.
3. Putting your seat back on an airplane
If you’re traveling from say, Cairo to New York City, I can understand why you would need those 15-20 degrees of extra tilt to attempt to be in a position that resembles a sleeping human. But say you were going on a 35-minute early morning flight from New York City to Philadelphia like I was the other day. Do you really need to tilt your seat back? But do you really? Because look: we all woke up at 5 am to catch this flight. All of us. And you, guy in seat 9C, are the only person in a 10-row radius who has actually put his seat back. This now gives the tall person sitting behind you about one inch between the end of his knees and the seat pocket. On the upside: the flight is only 35 minutes. On the downside: dude.
4. Leaving a public bathroom trashed
I really like the New Yorker‘s recent “Talk of the Town” piece on James Murphy, in which the LCD Soundsystem frontman talks about his father’s advice that you can tell a lot about a person by the state in which he leaves a public bathroom. I spend my days writing in a coffee shop with a small, unisex, mirrorless and windowless bathroom plastered in posters and stickers. I often enter this bathroom to find toilet paper stuck to the toilet and floor and piss on the toilet seat. How do I leave this bathroom? With the strewn toilet placed in the trash can and the toilet paper wiped of piss. How much longer do I spend in the bathroom leaving it in a better state than the state I found it in? About 20 seconds. No one is too good or too busy to get their hands literally dirty. Unless, I suppose, the bathroom has run out of soap.
5. Respecting elders
e.g.: Letting someone older than you go first through a doorway sit down on the subway. Maybe this is just New York City, but I frequently see young people fail to hold doors for people (of all ages) behind them, and going through doors first and making older people wait for them. What is the reason for this? Does no one recall the adage “Age before beauty”? I’m not talking children or teenagers here. I’m talking grownup humans. Don’t do this. You might actually feel good about letting someone — of any age — go ahead of you through a door or in a line.
6. Treating people in service industries like crap simply because you believe it is your right as a paying customer
Sure, the customer is always right. This does not mean the customer has to be rude, heartless, or completely amoral. Sites like Yelp have seemingly empowered us all to be more critical of establishments than we once were. You think you’re “paying good money” for a meal or a hotel room and therefore deserve “the best.” And to some extent that’s true. But the money that you are forking over is divided between several recipients. In the case of a restaurant: management, kitchen staff, waitstaff, purveyors, landlord, utility companies. If you leave a crappy tip for poor service, just remember that it might not be the waitstaff’s fault. A waiter is a conduit to the management and kitchen, but does that mean you should take everything out on them? No.
7. Asking people personal questions about their finances
Here’s an old-fashioned rule that I really agree with, because thoughts of money can really get in the way of personal relationships. It’s sort of like seeing someone with no clothes on: appropriate if you’re dating, not so much if you’re friends or coworkers (unless you’re into that kind of thing). It seems increasingly common, maybe because we’re more prone to oversharing these days, for people to very casually ask how much someone makes, or how much rent they pay. Why this isn’t appropriate: it’s pretty much 100 percent done in order for the asker to feel better about themselves and their financial situation. It’s also fodder for gossip, for people bored enough to want to compare bank balances. If you’re really interested in what other people pay for rent, try reading something like “The Hunt” column in the New York Times real estate section. It’s quite satisfying, especially if you live somewhere where rent isn’t nearly as high as it is in New York.
More ways that we’re becoming rude and obnoxious? Post in the comments!