Editorial #16 – Modern-day manners

We’ve all experienced it: sitting with a friend over lunch, who is conducting two conversations on top of the face-to-face one in which we are currently engaged, through the magic of text messaging.

Texting allows us to have silent, instant conversations with people all over the world, and it is changing the way we communicate. The changes may not all be for the better, however, as courtesy and manners go out the window in favour of convenience.

Cell phones and laptops permeate our culture. It’s hard to go into any public place and not see a large fraction of those present typing, texting or chatting on a cell phone. It has become so overwhelming to be disconnected for just a moment from the outside world that leaving a cell phone at home can cause a minor panic attack in many people.

There’s a reason theaters have a reminder to turn off cell phones during movies: they are annoying. If a ringing phone is annoying even when speakers as loud as jet engines are blaring, then imagine the effect in a quiet library or study area, or in class. Plus, that dope Kanye theme you downloaded last week is exponentially less cool when it echoes through a silent lecture hall full of turning heads.Classroom texting is less annoying, at least for fellow students – just don’t fool yourself into thinking the professor doesn’t notice, or believes that you are actually staring intently at your lap.

The worst of all, however, is the one-on-one face time that is shared by a third person in another building, another city, or another country. Texting is impersonal enough in its very nature, but it even actively saps the personal aspect from a live conversation if one member is occupied on his or her phone.

Texting is only the beginning, however. As anyone who has worked in the service industry will attest to, nothing looks more pompous and arrogant than someone snapping quick commands at a clerk while chatting on the phone.

As most people know, trying to have a conversation with someone whose attention is divided between you and a cell phone is irritating at best, insulting at worst. For example, try answering your cell phone while on a date. Just try it.

Gone are the days when cell phones were a status symbol, reserved for those who really needed one, and with those days have gone the assumption that their time is more valuable than anyone else’s. Just having a cell phone now does not indicate importance; it’s how you use it (or don’t) that gives you away.

What much of this comes down to is a very simple concept: it is ok to be disconnected for a moment. Chances are, whoever is texting you to ask what your plans are for Friday night is not holding his or her breath until you reply, so let the reply wait until you have a moment. If you are in class and your phone rings, whoever is on the other line will understand if you hang up the phone; you are a student, after all. If you forget your phone at home, yes, you may have to complete the nine-minute walk home in total social isolation, but maybe on that walk you will encounter one of those funny, 4-7 foot tall bipeds that look sort of like you, known as a fellow human, and you can have an offline instant messaging chat.

Editorial #14 – Yea rite, like i cant express miself ;p

According to professors at the University of Waterloo, a significant proportion of Canadian students are more or less illiterate. About thirty per cent of students in their first year at the school failed an English Proficiency exam, which tests basic grammar and spelling. At Simon Fraser University, ten per cent of students are required to take a remedial writing course because they do not qualify to enroll in a more advanced one, which is mandatory for graduation.

This failure rate confused me: we’re the generation raised with a little red or green line under any misspelled word, sentence fragment (which I always consider revising), or run-on sentence. It’s like having my mother hiding inside the medium through which we form most of our sentences, the computer, with a sharp eye for English and a free way with the strap.

Not only do we have constant auto-correction of our mistakes, but also at our fingertips are thousands of websites dedicated to easy, simple, step-by-step guides to the proper usage of the semicolon, comma, apostrophe and exclamation point (hint for the latter: never).

Parents are blaming everything from texting and tweeting to teachers and, well, the parents. Whoever is to blame, the fact remains that kids are incapable of expressing themselves using the English language, and that will cause them problems for their entire lives. In the age of email, spelling and grammar can be a major handicap in modern communication.

Those people who can’t properly put a sentence together or distinguish between “there,” “they’re,” and “their,” or who spell “definitely” with an “a” are shooting themselves in the foot, provided that their foot happens to be the respect of the addressee. Also, the use of emoticons, LOL, ROFL, OMG, WTF and the letter U on its own, it should go without saying, is strictly reserved for instant messenger chats with younger siblings.

There are people who would argue that this lazy, bland e-speak is destined to be integrated into mainstream English. There is probably some truth in that; the English language, after all, has been in a state of constant evolution since its birth, and why should we be so arrogant as to assume that we’ve finally got it down to a science? Especially given the rapid progression of communication technology and its social integration over the last two decades, it shouldn’t be surprising that its vocabulary has worked its way into popular speech.

However, teachers have to be wary of the dumbing-down of our vocabulary, and the passive adoption of a generation’s newspeak. Clearly teachers at the high school level aren’t beating it out of kids’ written lingo, and this is reducing professors’ jobs from teaching those same kids the subtleties of Milton and Marlowe to that of teaching them that apostrophe’s don’t pluralize noun’s.