Impolite Thank Yous

The New York Times published an article the other day (“Disruptions: Digital Era Redefining Etiquette”) about changes in acceptable communication in the digital age. The article discusses changes in appropriate communication and standards of etiquette due to the enormous quantity of digital communications, like emails and text messages, which people receive nowadays.

The author, Nick Bilton, expressed his disdain for receiving emails with the sole purpose of a “thank you” and calls the senders of such impolite. Saying thank you is impolite?

No thank you

Has communication evolved to a point in which it is considered improper to express appreciation, because the email itself might be considered bothersome to the person you are thanking? Now, I’ve certainly been guilty of sending an email for the sole purpose of saying “thank you.” I always felt that this was a necessary kindness and my mama raised me right! Or did she? Bilton would think me discourteous for expressing my sentiments via email with no other purpose. Granted, I’ve never expected a response from a “thank you” email, but I never considered not sending it. I’m also guilty of another offense: saying “Hello” in my emails. Am I the only one? Am I unknowingly part of an “older” generation that is no longer tech savvy? (Please say no, as I am currently on the cusp of turning 30 and in the midst of an existential crisis about the significance of my age. It’s just a number right? Right?).

Bilton also mentions other newly unacceptable forms of communication, the voicemail. Here is a point that Bilton and I agree on. Voicemail, I ain’t got time for that (insert meme here). How about asking about the weather, calling a business to ask their location or store hours, all unacceptable! In an age of “Google It,” is it truly considered impolite and uncivilized to ask someone these questions? Apparently so! This are all questions that waste the time of the person you are asking because we can easily find out the answers ourselves using our iPhones and Blackberries. Is this the general consensus? Should I just Google it instead of posing the question here?

It seems to me that these standards for communication are very stark and don’t foster relationships between people. If I receive an email without a “hello” I often think the person was in a rush or didn’t feel it necessary to express common courtesies. However, it seems they may have been trying to save me time and dropping the unnecessary social niceties to engage in this new, proper and polite “cut to the chase” philosophy of communication.

I wonder if the next generation will just communicate in binary code… why bother with all these letters and full sentences?


Whoops, guess I’ll never learn.

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