The Evolution of Manners

The Evolution of Manners

Courtney Cox, Staff Writer

The elevator has always been a slightly stressful situation for me. I push the button and pray, imaginary sweat dripping from my face, that the car will be empty. I don’t want to even think about accidentally running into a stranger as they step through the doors, much less be trapped with them for less than a minute. But if I am, my biggest fear is that they’ll try to make small talk. Sometimes, when I get nervous, my voice doesn’t work at all. I feel two feet tall as I anxiously mutter the floor I’m going to. I feel their judgement as the stranger pushes the button, thinking about how rude kids these days are, before the Ride of Doom begins.

Someone recently told me it was polite to say hello to the person on the elevator and to make brief conversation. I thought it was strange, because I would never want the person on the elevator to talk to me. Now, this person was about my grandmother’s age, so I figured it was just a matter of changing times, but I am the person that must hype myself up before asking my orthodontist to repeat himself or my math teacher to explain something again. So, maybe I am just one overly awkward teenager in a sea of normal people who can hold normal conversation, so I conducted a survey.

50% of the surveyed from 15-18 years old said that it was more polite to acknowledge the other person’s presence but say nothing under all circumstances, and 50% said under most. “If they seem [approachable], then I guess you could [talk to them],” a 15-year-old aptly put it. Another 15-year-old said to leave busy people alone but make small talk with those idly standing there. None of the subjects thought one should always engage in conversation.

66% of the surveyed from 49-65 years old said that it was more polite to make conversation in all circumstances, but 1 said there were stipulations for personal safety, notably young women. A 51-year-old believes that manners have devolved, rather than evolved. 33% of the older subjects said it was more polite to not talk entirely, in every situation.

Clearly, I’m not alone. Why is this? First, growing up with the internet accounts for a completely different atmosphere. Having an entire world’s worth of knowledge easily accessible is a new challenge, for sure. It’s so easy to retreat into our phones, look busy, and ignore people we don’t know. Plus, currently, our global circumstance means we are more willing to distance ourselves from others. So anti-social teens thrive. Besides, haven’t we been taught “stranger danger” since we could comprehend evil?

My parents have tried their best to combat my nervousness in public, so I can have normal human interactions, but I’m still rehearsing my lunch order and freezing up when people suddenly start talking to me. Hopefully, this is something most of us can outgrow, but if not, the world is about to get a lot quieter.