Tuesday, March 12, 2013

21st century etiquette

A blog post on the NYT web site (“Disruptions: Digital Era Redefining Etiquette”) lists previously unproblematic behaviors which should be considered rude circa 2013: sending an e-mail or text message which just says “Thank you”; leaving a voicemail message instead of texting; asking for a fact or directions that can be googled. Apparently, forcing a phone conversation on someone can fall in this category, too, since the author brags that he now communicates with his mother mostly on Twitter. I initially thought the piece was a parody, but it isn’t.

To help prove his point, the author cites the co-founder of a “comedic creative company” as saying: “I have decreasing amounts of tolerance for unnecessary communication because it is a burden and a cost.” That argument won me over in a millisecond. Indeed, who could be against the pursuit of efficiency and cutting all sorts of unnecessary costs in that most central of all areas – your personal life? And this is an argument whose power can no longer be plausibly denied in any area of social or personal existence. 

Case in point – a new book by economist Marina Adshade introducing cutting-edge research on the dynamics of the market for love. This is the opening paragraph of the enthusiastic review cum promotional piece in the NYT (“In the Quest for Love, Costs vs. Benefits”): “Is love for sale? Maybe not quite as directly as sex is, but economists believe that the quest for a romantic partner obeys essentially the same cost-benefit logic that governs every other market.” Case closed.