Saturday, February 25, 2017

Victorian Seashore Etiquette

"I feel bound to advise any girl reader to abstain from bathing in company of lover, friend or male acquaintance on general principles..." — Miss Libbey, on "Seashore Etiquette", 1900

Sea Bathing

Miss Libbey is an authoress. She is also an authority on the proprieties of sea bathing. It appears that "Two Young Girls," having heard of Laura Jean as one freighted down with seashore etiquette, wrote to Miss Libbey, asking, "Should young girls go bathing with male escorts?" and, likewise, "Would it be considered vulgar to go into the surf without stockings?" Ever kindly and given to loaning wisdom from her store, the charitable and impassioned authoress made haste to warn the puzzled maidens against any sockless tempting of Neptune. 


Said she in one of her finest passages: "I feel bound to advise any girl reader to abstain from bathing in company of lover, friend or male acquaintance on general principles. In the first place, even a pronounced beauty can, and often does, look hideous in the water. A man sees her at her worst, which is not advisable, and he never forgets the ludicrous picture she makes." 

In another outburst, founded no doubt upon her own investigation beside the sobbing deep, she cried out in this fashion: "You would not permit a man to put his arms about you waking along the public thoroughfare. Why accord him that privilege in the surf? " "Ah," you answer, 'it is different in the water. There is danger in those great big waves that come booming in, and I am glad to have him to cling to, I'm sure. "You have no business to be where there is danger, my dear." 

As to the hose, they are indeed a necessary adjunct to the bathing suit, if you would be modestly and properly clad. "Exuberance of spirits is all very well among a number of young girls disporting among the waves (here we bow to an old friend in the matter of phrases), but when gentlemen are present take great care not to become boisterous, for they will most assuredly take their cue as to how they will behave from you."

"Summer is very delightful and one of its choicest pleasures is the sea bath, invigorating alike to mind and body, but great care should be observed that it be not abused." – The Evening Sentinel, 1900

Etiquette Enthusiast, Maura J Graber, is the Site Moderator and Editor for the Etiquipedia© Etiquette Encyclopedia

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Etiquette and Appropriate Attire

One can at least dress characteristically, and so bring out the ideals to which one gives adherence. 

One should always have the appearance of being "well-groomed." It is a minor matter to add to habits of personal cleanliness, which every man and woman of refinement adheres to with scrupulous conscientiousness, that attention to the little details and finishing touches of dressing, which give the impression conveyed in that graphic expression "well-groomed." The niceties of life are always matters of small care but great moment.

The aim to be beautiful is a legitimate one, and worthy of the attention of every lover of beauty. To make the most of one's self, both for one's own sake and that of those about one, is a duty. Much can be done if good taste is consulted, and one's salient good points studied and emphasized. One can at least dress characteristically, and so bring out the ideals to which one gives adherence.

For instance, the business woman, in business hours, dresses with that same effort after efficiency and economy of time and strength that she has to put into her business to make it successful. She is, therefore, besides being scrupulously neat, perfectly plainly and yet durably and comfortably dressed. The sudden storm does not catch her unprepared, for she cannot afford to lose even an hour's work next day because she "caught cold." She permits no fussing with her garments, therefore they have to be in perfect working order, as fussing takes time, and time is money. Her hair is done neatly, and as becomingly as possible, but securely for the day.

If, on the other hand, the business woman be a milliner, whose own artistic personality must be her best advertisement, she takes pains to dress artistically even though she wear less serviceable and more elaborate costumes. She should, however, give the same impression of neatness and businesslike serviceableness, with the additional artistic impression which is going to show her customer that she knows how to bring out the telling points in her own personality, and create a charming effect.

The housewife needs, in her choice of morning garments, the same effectiveness as the business woman, for she must also work with real efficiency; but, in addition, she needs to give the impression of homelike abandon, as well as beauty and grace, which shall appear restful. – Edith Ordway, The Etiquette of To-Day, 1918

Etiquette Enthusiast, Maura J Graber, is the Site Moderator and Editor for the Etiquipedia© Etiquette Encyclopedia

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Edwardian Valentine Etiquette

The comic Valentine, when the joke is kind is all right, but when one is sent that which is insulting and personal, it goes against the spirit of the day. 

Valentines Not Out of Date 
IN place of going out of date, Valentines are gaining in popularity," said a manufacturer of these conceits. "We don't like to make any show of sentiment in this practical age, so the old-fashioned, foolishly sweet affairs are not used. No longer may the too bashful swain get behind good St. Valentine to make a declaration of love."

Neither is it good form to make it a spite day. The comic Valentine, when the joke is kind is all right, but when one is sent that which is insulting and personal, it goes against the spirit of the day. The once popular lace-trimmed Valentines are a thing of the past. Children have taken possession of these. The lover now sends his lady fair an offering of flowers, bonbons, fruit, a book, a picture or any dainty holiday gift. Where an engagement exists, often a piece of jewelry is sent.

It is considered better taste not to put any card on Valentine gifts. The identity of the sender should be shrouded in doubt. This adds piquancy to the occasion. Of course, the woman in the case is usually a good guesser. There is only one time-honored way to send any card or comic Valentine and that is to have it slipped under the door on St. Valentine eve. 

It must not under any circumstances be intrusted to Uncle Sam and have the prosaic adornment of a postage stamp unless the sender lives at a distance. Then it is pardonable because unavoidable, but a part of the flavor is lost when it has to come through such a channel. 

Even flowers and candy are left on the doorstep by a messenger boy, who runs away in the friendly darkness and watches from a distance to see that the offering is taken in. 

The etiquette of Valentines decrees that no woman shall make a present to even her dearest female friend on this day, nor must a man give anything to another man. 

This etiquette does not apply to comic Valentines, but to presents of any description. It is a day sacred to lovers, and no one else must trespass on their privileges. Neither does a woman remember a man friend with even the most trifling souvenir. There is no hint of Leap Year prerogatives in this old-fashioned day.— San Francisco Call, 1901

Etiquette Enthusiast, Maura J Graber, is the Site Moderator and Editor for the Etiquipedia© Etiquette Encyclopedia

Monday, February 13, 2017

Saint Valentine's Etiquette

She Juggles Hearts and Money Bags ~ Today you see the shops decked out with pretty tokens, satin trifles and all sorts of sweet-smelling gifts. There are verse books written also for the day, and the windows are filled with trifles, costly and otherwise. The etiquette of a Saint Valentine gift has changed somewhat in the last 1000 years. 

From the time the custom of observing Saint Valentine's day began, it has grown, and now this gift day is almost a holiday. It is celebrated in the social world by gatherings and in the trade world by a great variety of pretty tokens, offered for personal gifts. And so Saint Valentine is not forgotten, though so many hundred years have passed since his death. 


It would be impossible to tell how the custom of honoring Saint Valentine will change in the next hundred years. Today you see the shops decked out with pretty tokens, satin trifles and all sorts of sweet-smelling gifts. There are verse books written also for the day, and the windows are filled with trifles, costly and otherwise. The etiquette of a Saint Valentine gift has changed somewhat in the last 1000 years. 

At the beginning of the ninth century a Valentine was a proposal of marriage, and consisted of a herd of cattle for the very wealthy swain and a slain sheep for the poor one. Lovers in the warm countries sent gifts of wine, and in the orient they sent perfumes, for there is no country to which the fame of Saint Valentine has not traveled. 

The most popular gift today is a figure picture. There is no handsomer token that a box upon which a pretty girl stands, with arms out stretched, juggling hearts and money bags. In looking upon her Valentine's gifts, the maiden of Valentine's day, 1898, cannot do better than pick a moral from the fame of Saint Valentine. He chose love as his theme, and lives forever in the heart, while unworthy Croesus and his wealthy Roman associates, who looked upon gold, not wisely but too greedily, are held afar off as objects of scorn. —Harry Germaine, 1898

Etiquette Enthusiast, Maura J Graber, is the Site Moderator and Editor for the Etiquipedia©Etiquette Encyclopedia

Monday, February 6, 2017

Royal Russian Etiquette

In Russia there are several institutions which retain an oriental flavor and the fact that the Czarina is always surrounded by an imposing bevy of unmarried women is a case in point. At least fifty young women, all the daughters of great Nobles pay her personal service.

Russian Maids of Honor
**********************
An Academy at Moscow Where They Are Trained — Must be Able to Sew, Read Aloud for Hours and Stand for Indefinite Periods

Speaking of the Russian schools, there is one academy at Moscow which is unique in its way. I am sure that a similar institution does not exist in any other country, says the Philadelphia Times. "It is a school for young ladies of high birth, whose parents desire that they shall become Maids of Honor at the Imperial Court. 

The English Queen has only six or eight Maids of Honor, and I believe the Royal attendants of that description are even fewer in number at Courts where there is a Queen Regnant, Queen Regent or Queen Consort of first-class rank. Of course, by "Queens" I also mean "Empresses." 

All the reigning Consorts who have the Imperial title are also Queens. Empress Elizabeth of Austria is also Queen of Hungary; Empress Alexandria of Russia is Queen of Poland; Empress Augusta Victoria of Germany is also Queen of Prussia and Queen Victoria is also Empress of India. In Russia there are several institutions which retain an oriental flavor and the fact that the Czarina is always surrounded by an imposing bevy of unmarried women is a case in point. At least fifty young women, all the daughters of great Nobles pay her personal service. They are in two ranks, "Cipher" and "Portrait," distinctions which I will presently explain. 

Candidates for the position of Maids of Honor to the Empress have their names registered by a Court official, whose title might be translated as "Overseer of the Maids." This is often done a day or two after the birth of the aspiring young ladies. At the age of ten they enter the official school of the Maids of Honor and there they are taught everything pertaining to the Court, as well as everything that goes to make a well-educated young gentlewoman. 

The girls must acquire the art of legible writing and be able to correspond fluently not only in Russian, but in English, German, French and Italian. They must be able to take dictation in all those languages rapidly. They are also expected to become familiar not only with the routine etiquette of their own and foreign Courts, but they must learn rules of prudence, delicate distinctions of rank and other intricacies of Court life, almost impossible to explain to those who have not been born in the atmosphere of the purple. 

Future Maids of Honor are also required to be not only clever at embroidery but capable, if necessary, of ordinary domestic stitching. While in attendance there are always possibilities of a ready needle being required for the Empress or a Grand Duchess. They are also expected to know how to order a dinner and how to direct cooks in the way of preparing dishes favored by Imperial personages. They must have a capacity of being able to read aloud for hours if necessary, without undue fatigue; being able to stand for indefinite periods; of being able to reecive snubbings, scoldings, even abuse with patient composure, and finally they must inculcate within them the fact that an Empress or Grand Duchess is a personage almost divine in attribute. 

All these accomplishments acquired —or apparently acquired— it remains with a Maid of Honor lastly to be of such favor in her features, her general appearance and her dress that she enforces attraction from the Empress or from one of the other half-dozen Grand Duchesses of Russia, who are permitted to have the second pick of the Maids of Honor, after the Czarina has finished her own appointment. 

Before, however, such appointment can be ratified, the Czar himself inspects the candidates. Indeed, at various periods the Czar makes a point of visiting the school and generally "looks over" the girls. The Czarina's Maids of Honor enjoy a barbaric splendor of costume that far exceeds anything to be seen at any other European Court. A white satin robe stretches from chin to toes, the buttons up the front being set with precious stones. Over this is thrown a sort of red velvet cloak, embroidered with gold and having long pendant sleeves. On their heads rests the kakochnik or national cap of crimson velvet, thickly studded with jewels, from the summit of which hangs a veil of white tulle that spreads half way over the voluminous train. This gorgeous array is donned on all State occasions until the wearer passes from the "Cipher" to the "Portrait" stage of promotion. 

The juniors wear for some years on their left shoulders the monogram of their mistress worked in pale blue silk, but after a period of service they substitute for this the portrait of the Empress framed in brilliants and exchange their crimson and gold for a less radiant cap of green and silver. 

While receiving their education they wear plain woolen frocks, with frilled silk aprons, but these dresses are so contrived that the upper part of the bodices and the long sleeves can be removed at will. Whenever the Czar visits the schools all the girls appear decollete. —  Sacramento Daily Union and Philadelphia Times, 1896

Etiquette Enthusiast, Maura J Graber, is the Site Moderator and Editor for the Etiquipedia© Etiquette Encyclopedia 

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Etiquette, Engagement Traditions

We usually find that a young lady's spinster friends are partial to the custom; they seem to find particular enjoyment in presenting her with dainty tea-cups, either separately or in sets.


There is an old tradition regarding the giving of tea-cups as an engagement present. A lover, who was obliged to go away on an extended sea journey, gave to his betrothed a delicate china cup, asking her to drink tea from it every afternoon. He said, "If I am unfaithful, the cup will fill to overbrimming and the tea pouring over the sides will crack the thin china. Then you will know I have broken faith."

The custom has been brought down to us, and now we find that the giving of a tea-cup or a tea-set as an engagement present signifies faithfulness—and it may mean faithfulness to friendship or love as the case may be. We usually find that a young lady's spinster friends are partial to the custom; they seem to find particular enjoyment in presenting her with dainty tea-cups, either separately or in sets. — Lillian Eichler, 1921

Etiquette Enthusiast, Maura J Graber, is the Site Moderator and Editor for the Etiquipedia© Etiquette Encyclopedia

Friday, February 3, 2017

Georgian Era Tea Etiquette

Etiquette demanded that the tea should be tasted from the spoon, and that the hostess should then inquire: "Is your tea agreeable?" 

"Tea Drinking a Century Ago"
as it was told in 1899

A hundred years ago it was considered a lack of courtesy to take much cream or sugar in one's tea. Etiquette demanded that the tea should be tasted from the spoon, and that the hostess should then inquire: "Is your tea agreeable?"

Modern women would be shocked by a fashionable lady of those days who cooled her tea with her breath, yet Young wrote of a certain bewildering Lady Betty: Her two red lips affected zephyrs blow, To cool the Bohea and inflame the beau; While one white finger and a thumb conspire, To lift the cup and make the world admire. – Sacramento Daily Union, 1899

Etiquette Enthusiast Maura J Graber is the Site Moderator and Editor for the Etiquipedia©Etiquette Encyclopedia 

Etiquette and Esterhazy Temper

The Holy Week religious scene  at the Calvary at the Prater was imposing; but it is on record lhat it led to much secular love-making, which was deplored by the clergy.— Esterházy is a Hungarian noble family with origins in the Middle Ages. Since the 17th century, they were among the great landowner magnates of the Kingdom of Hungary during the time it was part of the Habsburg Empire and later Austria-Hungary.

The mania for etiquette and piety which prevailed at Vienna under Maria Theresa and Joseph the Second was exactly suited to the Esterhazy temper. The Duke of Richelieu complains bitterly that during one Lent when he was Minister at Vienna he spent 100 hours at church with the Emperor; the Esterhazys did not mind that, they rather enjoyed it. They were spared the infliction of dining with his Majesty; no one ever did that. 

The Emperor dined with his hat on in the presence of his wife and her ladies of honor, and at some distance from the table stood the foreign Embassadors, also with their hats on. They remained standing, 'til the Emperor had taken his first draught of wine, when they retired. The Esterhazys and other nobles remained in an anteroom.

They fared better at the "taverns" and "Sledge" parties. Each gentleman sent to the Master of Ceremonies, a card bearing the name of the lady of his choice, and for that evening she belonged to him. She drove with him, danced with him, supped with him; everybody was masked, and naturally there was a good deal of fun. Etiquette required each gentleman to pay for the dress and mask  of his lady. 

In Holy Week it generally devolved on an Esterhazy to conduct the procession illustrating the Passion. The Wise Men of the East, Herod and Pilate, the Virgin Mary and Joseph, the Twelve Apostles, Mary Magdalen, all mounted on asses and led by Esterhazy, journeyed to the Calvary in the Prater, followed by a stream of men with false beards, some flagellating themselves, some carrying a placard on which their sins were enumerated, some bearing crosses. The scene was imposing; but it is on record that it led to much secular love-making, which was deplored by the clergy. — San Francisco Call, 1897


Etiquette Enthusiast, Maura J Graber, is the Site Moderator and Editor for the Etiquipedia© Etiquette Encyclopedia

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Etiquette, Food, Diplomacy and Good Breeding

Culinary diplomacy, also known as "gastro-diplomacy," is a type of cultural diplomacy, which itself is a subset of public diplomacy. Its basic premise is that "the easiest way to win hearts and minds is through the stomach." Being well-bred, aka "well-mannered," also helps.






“The proverb, 'The beginning is half the battle,' applies in a multitude of ways. In the first instant of a greeting between two people, the ground upon which they meet should be indicated. Cordiality, reserve, distrust, confidence, caution, condescension, deference—whatever the real or the assumed attitude may be, should be shown unmistakably when eyes meet and heads bend in the ceremony of greeting. 

To put into this initial manner the essence of the manner which one chooses to maintain throughout is one of the fine touches of diplomacy. People fail to do this when their effusively gracious condescension subsequently develops into snobbishness, or when an austere stiffness of demeanor belies the friendliness which they really intend to manifest. The latter fault is often due to diffidence or awkward self-consciousness; the former is usually traceable to the caprice of an undisciplined nature, and is a significant mark of ill-breeding." — Agnes H. Morton's, “Etiquette."

Etiquette Enthusiast, Maura J Graber, is the Site Moderator and Editor for the Etiquipedia© Etiquette Encyclopedia

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Etiquette History and Telephones

Texting Isn’t the First New Technology Thought to Impair Social Skills
When Alexander Graham Bell introduced the telephone, skeptics worried about how it might affect people’s interactions.

Is text-messaging driving us apart? These days, we talk to each other a lot with our thumbs—mashing out over six billion text messages a day in the United States, and likely a few billion more on services like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger.

But some worry that so much messaging leads, paradoxically, to less communication. When Sherry Turkle, the MIT clinical psychologist and author, interviewed college students, they said text­ing was causing friction in their face-to-face interactions. While hanging out with friends they’d be texting surreptitiously at the same time, pretending to maintain eye contact but mentally somewhere else. The new form of communication was fun, sure, but it was colliding with—and eroding—the old one.

“Our texts are fine,” as one student said. “It’s what texting does to our conversations when we are together that’s the problem.” Plenty of people agree. Jenna Birch, a young journalist, recently argued that texting is inferior to talking face to face because it’s too easy to misinterpret—over-overinterpret—tone. Worse, texting makes it more likely for her generation to dodge difficult emotional conversations, the “hard stuff.” If we don’t shape up, she warned, “we’ll all end up on interconnected islands, together in our aloneness.”

New technologies often unsettle the way we relate to one another, of course. But social ruptures caused by texting have a strong echo in the arguments we had a hundred years ago. That’s when a newfangled appliance gave us a strange new way to contact one another en masse: the telephone.

When Alexander Graham Bell introduced his telephone in March 1876, the invention was riddled with problems. The line was a crackly mess—prone to interference from nearby electrical lines—and it was powered by a battery that leaked acid. Still, it allowed for a remarkable, unmooring experience: For the first time, you could talk in real time to someone blocks or miles away. “It was like a voice from another world,” marveled one early user. Bell quickly improved the quality, and customers thronged. In the first year, over 3,000 telephones sold; by 1900 there were over one million phones nationwide.

At first, the telephone was marketed mainly as a tool for business. Physicians and drugstores bought them to process orders, and business owners installed them at home so they could be quickly reached. The phone, proclaimed early ad copy, gave business leaders an ESP-like “sixth sense” of their far-flung operations.

The idea of using such a powerful tool for everyday conversation? That seemed laughable and obnoxious. One early social critic warned that the phone should not be used for the “exchange of twaddle between foolish women.” Businessmen prohibited their wives from tying up the line, lest they interfere with commerce. “At the beginning, women were forbidden to use the phone — the business was supposed to have the priority,” notes Michéle Martin, a professor emeritus at Canada’s Carleton University and author of Hello, Central?

But it quickly became apparent that people wanted to talk—to socialize. One phone company manager in 1909 did a survey of usage and found that 30 percent of all calls were “idle gossip,” lasting 7.5 minutes on average each. He didn’t like this chitchat, but he was running against the stream. Eventually phone firms realized there was more money in selling lines for banter than for business. “They realized, ‘We can make money off gossip and idle conversation and sociability on the telephone,’” says Claude Fischer, author of America Calling: A Social History of the Telephone to 1940.
Within a few years, phone companies were emphasizing how they could reduce isolation and bring friends together. A California firm in 1911 declared that its phone was “a Blessing to the Farmer’s Wife,” adding that “it relieves the monotony of life. She cannot be lonesome with the Bell Service.”

Indeed, women quickly became the dominant users of the telephone. “In some ways it was liberating,” Martin notes, because it gave housebound wives much more social contact—without the enormous work of maintaining visual appearances in face-to-face interactions.

Still, users struggled to figure out the social protocols of this new ethereal realm. How do you start a conversation when you can’t see the person you’re talking to? Thomas Edison advocated beginning each call with “Hello,” but masters of etiquette cringed. “It sounded too much like a ship-to-ship call across to another,” laughs Fischer—far too crude and abrupt, a barbaric yawp devoid of social grace. As one social critic sneered at the time: “Would you rush into an office or up to the door of a residence and blurt out ‘Hello! Hello! Who am I talking to?’” 

Others argued that the phone might be fine for some things, but not for delicate communications — like inviting an acquaintance to dinner. (“Never excusable, save among very intimate friends,” etiquette author Annie Randall White wrote in 1901.)

Nonetheless, the telephone quickly gave birth to curious new forms of socializing. Callers arranged regular weekly “visiting” calls, dialing remote family to catch up on news. “Distance rolls away and for a few minutes every Thursday night the familiar voices tell the little family gossip that both are so eager to hear,” a Bell ad cooed in 1921.

Phone companies even boasted that the phone was an improvement over that stodgy, low-fi communication, the letter. “Correspondence will help for a time, but friendships do not flourish for long on letters alone,” a 1931 Bell sales manual noted. “When you can’t visit in person, telephone periodically. Telephone calls will keep up the whole intimacy remarkably well.”

Soon, though, social critics began to wonder: Was all this phone chatter good for us? Was it somehow a lesser form of communication than what had come before? “Does the telephone make men more active or more lazy?” wondered the Knights of Columbus in a 1926 meeting. “Does the telephone break up home life and the old practice of visiting friends?”

Others worried that the inverse would occur—that it would be so easy to talk that we’d never leave each other alone. “Thanks to the telephone, motor-car and such-like inventions, our neighbors have it in their power to turn our leisure into a series of interruptions,” complained an American professor in 1929. And surely it couldn’t be healthy to talk to each other so much. Wouldn’t it create too much information?

“We shall soon be nothing but transparent heaps of jelly to each other,” a London writer moaned in 1897. Others fretted that the telephone sped up life, demanding instant reactions. “The use of the telephone gives little room for reflection,” wrote a British newspaper in 1899. “It does not improve the temper, and it engenders a feverishness in the ordinary concerns of life which does not make for domestic happiness and comfort.”

Perhaps the strangest thing was being in the room while a friend talked to someone else—someone outside the room. In 1880, Mark Twain wrote “A Telephonic Conversation,” transcribing the half-a-conversation as he listened to his wife on the phone. To the observer, as the skit pointed out, a telephone call sounded like disjointed nonsense. Even phone companies worried about whether the device created new forms of rude behavior; a 1910 Bell ad warned about “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde at the Telephone.”
In essence, the telephone was a teleportation device, bringing other people—including, disconcertingly, strangers—suddenly into one’s home. Young ladies, some fretted, were at romantic risk. “The serenading troubadour can now thrum his throbbing guitar before the transmitter undisturbed by apprehensions of shot guns and bull dogs,” a magazine article in Electrical World noted. Scamsters loved the phone.

“It changed people’s ideas of social trust,” notes Carolyn Marvin, a professor at the Annenberg School for Communication and author of When Old Technologies Were New. We could no longer read someone based on face-to-face social cues.

Indeed, some believed the phone improved our social behavior, because it forced a listener to pay closer attention to a speaker. Devoid of visual signals, we must be “all ears and memory,” a pundit wrote in 1915: “The mind cannot wander.” Plus, by eradicating distance, wouldn’t the phone reduce misunderstanding? War, even? “Someday we will build up a world telephone system making necessary to all peoples the use of a common language, or common understanding of languages, which will join all the people of the earth into one brotherhood,” gushed John J. Carty, AT&T chief engineer, in 1907.

These utopian views, of course, were wildly optimistic. But the gloomy views of pessimists, as Fischer notes, didn’t come true either. Even Emily Post, the etiquette expert, came around to the telephone. By the 1920s, she’d accepted “Hello” as a suitable greeting, and even thought it was acceptable to invite someone to dinner with a call. “Custom which has altered many ways and manners has taken away all opprobrium from the message,” she shrugged.

Texting is blamed for ruining personal discourse and common courtesy. 
Nowadays, the telephone call seems like a quaint throwback to a gentler era. When Jenna Birch, the journalist, started dating a man who insisted on calling her on the phone, she found it warm and delightful—though her friends thought the behavior odd. Phone calls now seem retro.

Academics have observed this shift, too. “My students just do not think of the phone as a mechanism of vocal interaction—they think of that as very rare,” says John Durham Peters, a communication professor at the University of Iowa, and author of Speaking Into the Air. He doesn’t think the shift to texting has degraded our interactions, though. By the middle of the 20th century, studies found that the telephone appeared not to have eroded social contact—indeed, some research found those with phones wrote more old-fashioned letters than those without. 

Similarly, modern surveys by the Pew Research Center have found that teenagers who text the most are also those who spend the most time face to face with friends. Communication, it seems, begets more communication, and—as Peters argues—just because talk happens in text doesn’t mean it’s not meaningful. “Media scholars,” he notes, “have this long romance with ‘conversation’ as the cure to the disease of media.”

Still, it’s not hard to be dispirited by the divided attention so many of Turkle’s subjects bemoaned in their lives. Indeed, Michéle Martin, of Carleton, thinks we’re living through a replay of the telephone, where the things that made it valuable—instant communications—are the same that made it annoying. “People believe they are liberated because they can bring the mobile phone everywhere,” Martin says. “But at the same time they are slaves to it.”

The poet Carl Sandburg captured that dissonance in a 1916 poem about the telephone. He imagined a telephone wire being aware of the disparate uses to which it was being put—coursing with conversations both deep and frivolous. “It is love and war and money; it is the fighting and the tears, the work and want / Death and laughter of men and women passing through me, carrier of your speech.” — Smithsonian Magazine, March 2016

Etiquette Enthusiast, Maura J Graber, is the Site Moderator and Editor for the Etiquipedia© Etiquette Encyclopedia