Coping: How Information Density Killed Manners

Roll up your sleeve.  Time for another Reality Inoculation….

It was an odd conversation, as most of ours are around the ranch: Elaine and I were thinking back to the “times of old” when men could open a car door for a woman without being sent to Chauvinist Hell. When people said “Please, yes, thank you for asking…” and a host of other terms that ensured we didn’t disrespect one-another.

That was then.

This is now. And this is taken from actual phone calls in the past week.

“….so call me after work and I’ll let you know my schedule. (Click!)”

“…Let me know what you find out (Click!)”

The part that Elaine was having a problem with was the idea that if I find a piece of music that is interesting to me, I have no hesitation in pasting a link to a YouTube video for one of my kids to consider.

She was stopped like a deer-in-headlights by the notion that I failed important etiquette rules to her way of thinking.

“That’s fairly presumptuous. What didn’t you send a note first asking if they were even remotely interested in receiving such a link?”


This is the kind of thing that leads her to think I am egotistical at times.  Full of myself and presumptive about what other people want, find interesting, and so forth.

Oh no…not again, She was asking a perfectly logical question and one that actually neds to be asked now and then.

Already today, I have received half a dozen unsolicited jokes, a couple of useless videos that Ii don’t have time to watch and so on and so forth.

Not a single person ever bothered to ASK if I wanted to be on a distro list for inane bullshit. Especially from people I don’t know well and have respect for their taste.

To amplify a bit, if my buddy of 64 years, the retired Major who is coming down to visit with his wife this week thinks I MIGHT be interested in something, he has some basis for thinking it. For one, we have been pals way more than half a century and we pretty much know how one-another are wired.

On the other hand, I get emails from people I’ve run off this site in the past for off-topic comments and trying to get people all riled up. Then there is the racist crap and the anti-Semitic and anti-corporate rants.

These people, who don’t bother asking, don’t know I have close long-term friends who are Jewish, relatives who are black, and without corporations such luxuries of Life as free shipping with Prime wouldn’t be around.

I like people of all sorts. And I like ;em with manners.

All this spun through my limited number of brain cells while I stalled for time.

So let’s say you found this really cool new TV series that one of the boys would like. Wouldn’t you just email them a link… or if it was music, wouldn’t you just flip an MP3 over to them?”

Right here, Elaine explained the my thinking gap:

Of course not. I would ask them, since I found this new show interesting, whether they would like to learn about it…or NOT. I don’t want to throw things at them if they aren’t interested.”

Ah Ha!!!  Suddenly mental fog lifted and thinking cleared.

The density of information-exchange is what has killed manners.

You see, in Elaine’s world, she would politely ask (*message 1) if the son or daughter-in-law had any interest.  Then she would get a response (*message 2) or not.  Then she would reply (^message 3). 

See it?  Two messages of politeness but arguably low density overhead.

This kind of thinking is extensible, too.  Under extreme-time compression, people stop opening doors for the females, for example.  We then cobble laws to excuse the gaff.  Same with men walking on the outside of a sidewalk – to take the splash from a passing carriage.  We then make up whole movements *like women’s rights) to a) rope both sexes into the workforce and b( toi raise more money for globalists and tax revenue for governments.

Most people just drink the Kool-Aid on such (it’s been wrapped up as “equality”) and don’t ask questions like “Why did only one member of a Household have to work to support a family of four really well – and even take family vacations together in the 1950’s?  Have we been snookered along the way?”

Oh my heavens….yes..we have been had…

As part of the “information compression chamber” we live in,  rather than “waste” two messages, you just flip the file over to whoever and let them figure if it’s useful or interesting.

There are other examples as well.

Take those cell phone chats that end with a click.

This is running rampant in today’s world.

Occasionally, what passes in today’s world as an extended end to a phone call does take place. “…I’m out.” (Click)

More often than not, that extra bit of personal energy is conserved. A click says the call is over better than “Good-bye” and it doesn’t take as long.

For old fogies like me, I don’t know the difference between an accidental mute button or a hang-up click. But this is back to point.

Even agenda-setting is gone.

“I have three things I need to go over with you….” Has been replaced with just running the list. Ending with a click.

In a sense, I can understand how it happens. Agenda setting, numbering, check-listing… it’s all OVERHEAD in the communications channel. Like Good-bye, it has done gone and went.

My Pet Theory of the Week (PTOTW) is that once upon a time, in a land far removed, people actually thought about other people, and no solely themselves.

In doing so, they were respectful and always polite. Concepts today are so compressed that if I tell you to FO, you naturally follow. Or OMGF is a predicate for a sentence that has become so trite that it has been abbreviated.

I worry much about about the danger we have unleashed on the world in the form of computers. Not that I am a particularly religious man, per se, but there’s maybe something behind Leviticus 26:1.

That’s the part of the bible that goes into don’t make idols, images, and so forth.

In a sense, that is exactly what Facebook and Youtube ARE – a full-time fascination with images and idolatry of us humans.  Good enough reason to be banned…since it’s a huge source of communications compression.

Their trick is they don’t provide any content.  Just a slick layout.  The content (hence revenue) comes from suckers like us who make them rich.  It’s like renting the models to make craven images.  Slick, huh?

Even today, there are tribes in the world who believe a photograph steals a bit of a person’s soul. Shows up in Obadiah/voodoo, as well.  Make an image of someone, stick pins in, and wait for results.  Then again, maybe I have a better grounding in sympathetic magick than most. 

I don’t kid you on this stuff:  See the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry discussion here.

While we’re on it, see the Yahoo discussion here, as well.

Obviously, media of any kind can extend the image, voice, and influence of a human.  But what if the human is not worthy and just happens to hype well?  (I give you the presidential contest as evidence.)

You may just be too busy working at being “in the herd” to be “in the moment.”

So here is the Monday ponder that may help put the week in perspective:

When we started shoveling idols around in real-time with television and ubiquitously on the web, did we set ourselves up to become The Hive?

Elaine’s the last woman of her sort to be built, near as I can figure. Have never met another person who has such a fine grounding in politeness. Not that I’m proud of it, but I more than make up for it on the big Cosmic Scales.

Just anecdotally, though, I have heard the politeness leaving in my lifetime.

Phone calls (again from this week’s experience) don’t begin like they used to. 10-years ago, a call from my son would begin “Hey dad, it’s George and I’m calling to [sets agenda].

Now, there’s no social predicate, except in openings like “Yo…what’s your ruckus?”

The compression varies by age and peer group.

I wouldn’t be so sensitive to it, but in order to get a really high class ham radio license it’s a good idea to know old-time Q Signals.

Called the Q-Code, it was really useful to have a systematic way of communicating in Morse code with such things as aircraft flying during wartime. The long list of Wikipedia entries is interesting, even if you don’t memorize the All Services list. The ham radio list is useful, and consistent.

America’s youth are not very clever. If they were, they would not have resorted to a baseful functional set of abbreviations. Between the old Police Department Miscellaneous Incident Reporting (MIR) code, you could abbreviate most functional requirements of communications. The MIR Codes are now the Uniform Crime Reporting codes.

I’m not trying to begin the week with a Luddite Revival of Manners.  I am after all one of two two kinds of plumbing ought to handle all cases guy…

But somewhere between data compression and time constraints, civil society has gotten ripped. With no time for reflection and no economic way to kick back and just reflect on sh*t for half a day, now and then, what could we expect?

Next time you are out and about and people are acting rudely, notice how much time they are spending in the apes-pressing-buttons mode.

Betcha it’ll be high.

A polite society takes time to do things right. Judging by behaviors in the world today, we must just about be “outta time” – and not the license plate in B2TF.

Data compression explains a lot of what’s wrong with the world including the accelerating disappearance of politeness.

QRU & 73

(Decompressed as “Now I have no more traffic for you, so I will say good-bye and very best regards.”)

P.S.  I notice my kids tend to end calls with “Talk to you later, love you dad” more on weekends than during the workweek.  Tells you something, doesn’t it?

Maybe today’s run of rudeness and impolite isn’t about ill-manners and is about lack ofs time to do things in a thoughtful, humanly aware way.

I will politely remind you to write when you get rich… If you have time, are so inclined, and we’re all excellent to one-an other.

32 thoughts on “Coping: How Information Density Killed Manners”

  1. If I ask you before I send something to you , will you reply yes or no. Or will you ignore. Thanks just asking haha

  2. Someone once said that manners are the grease of civilization. They are voluntary things we say or do to make life a little easier, since life can be hard for many people. When manners disappear, it is a small sign of a culture in decline. Thank you.

    • “voluntary things we say or do”…
      Thank you Steve.
      This wee bit of ‘aha’ unfolds an insight into the evolution of social attitude entropy (SAE), more precisely the demise of the art of ‘Being Present’ with one another. It is totally voluntary.
      It is a lofty Attribute.
      How can one ‘be present’ with another when their noses are buried deep in the cell phone/android/mobile devices or up their a**?
      It is veritably the encroachment of A.I. and ‘robotism’ (ehem, even robots can be programmed for manners).
      I ask therefore, are we so distracted we are now devoid of that desire to uplift another (hence a reflection of oneself)with a thoughtful, considerate act?
      Bravo Elaine for your Awareness.
      Bravo George for acknowledging her brilliance.
      We need the head slap as a reminder, thank you.
      Great post.
      Beware the impatience- you are quickening your timeline and your demise to the grave. Who really wants to rush to that? Who is so impatient to age and die? Ask a robot.

  3. Oh George, where to begin . . .

    As I think you were saying . . . books can be written, or have been written on the subject . . . but let me tell you a story.

    Two days before Christmas when I was sixteen, my dad told me to get my pea coat, gloves and hat on and we drove over to a friend of his’ house, then over to my uncle’s business and ‘picked up’ a pickup truck full of Christmas trees and greenery. Then we headed over to a poor part of town to a Catholic church, that unlike our parish church didn’t have any vegetation (or decoration) to break up the bleakness of the interior.

    Will and I unloaded the truck into the church which was empty, with my dad watching (he was always more of an ‘organizer’ than a ‘doer’). I remember that we had almost (or perhaps had) finished, when a very angry priest demanded to know what we were doing. My dad’s terse, “Delivering Christmas trees”, didn’t exactly calm the man, but he sighed and asked how much he owed us, and my dad said, “Oh, they are a donation – I thought you needed some greenery!”

    My dad then shooed us out of the place, and down the street to a bar, where he told me he was ordering a soda pop for me, I was not to talk, and I was to keep my hat on. The bar didn’t seem to be too worried about young looking customers, so I chanced a question – “Did that priest know we were coming?” “No, I thought they needed some cheering up,” he said, oblivious to the social norm you were speaking of . . .

    Well, now since this was roughly the time frame that the PC was invented – I don’t think that ‘too much information was involved’ – rather there has been a general breaking of social customs and norms in general. Some of these customs have outlasted their usefulness – though not the one you speak of!

  4. Wonderful observations. My pet peeve with modern communications from the younger set is their assumption that if they call you and then hang up without leaving a message you are suppose to know to call them back. We tell everybody we give our phone number to now that if you call leave a message and we will get back with you. Many are shocked that a dangling caller ID with no message does not warrant a return call. Also we tell people if your name does not come up on caller ID we won’t answer the call because we get too many bs phone calls and cannot tell if the caller is friendly, telemarketer, or political.

    I also cannot stand the sudden end to a call without a “goodbye”, not like it takes that much time or effort. Being raised with good manners “please”, “thank you”, “sir”, Ma’am” just add a nice touch of civility and respect to life like a smile does. Too often now I go shopping and it seems like it would kill the cashier to smile while checking me out. I know the jobs suck so I try to be pleasant having worked those types of jobs, but as my grandfather would say, “A smile never killed anyone.” and “When you are doing a job you give it your best regardless the pay.”

  5. Facebook, oddly, does solve Elaine’s problem. Rather than sending unsolicited links to individuals about stuff we are interested in, we can post them for friends to look at or not on Facebook, having invited them to friend us. And their feedback is equally voluntary. Like, don’t like, no comment, ignore, etc. are all options.

    One thing I have noticed is people making and others posting, videos which have several minutes of flashy intro graphics and music, followed by a mystery novel lead. When you look at the time bar, you see that in 45 minutes they may answer the opening question. My time is certainly too valuable to make a 45 minute bet. Instead, one can immediately get to the bottom line, tos in a few data point and images, and then allow me to decide if I want to click through on a 45 minute expansion of the issue.

    In other words, if somebody posts a 45 second video, and the post has a crisp, understandable headline, and the short video amounts to an ad for the long video, I will bite. But it is a rare day indeed that I will give much more time to a stranger. Netflix has succeeded in part because the commercials are removed, the time of watching is viewer’s choice, and one need not wait until next week to see the next installment. All of this supports George’s observations about time and information density.

  6. A friend of mine posted that Adam Curtis, the brilliant English filmmaker, has a new film out about normalization. He is the one who did the eye opening films one Edward Bernays, “Century of the Self”. The trailer is available on YouTube if you are interested.

    As I understand it, this film covers how all of us, including the top dogs, are caught in a system that traps us in uniform thinking.

  7. When we were in Texas this past spring, my wife and I noticed something very refreshing. Texans are very polite. Heck they even held the door open for me! Very different than it’s all about me state of California. If y’all were any more polite, I’d be worried!
    Lynn A. Stokes
    Eastern Pacific Yacht Delivery Service
    Morro Bay, Ca.

  8. Too busy to be polite? I don’t buy it. Even the cats are polite at my house. It’s just more egocentric behavior, which is not rewarded with my attention. Yes, I go through the world with good manners, whether I “have time” or not — and the way is smoothed before me in ways I can only imagine — which saves a lot of time. We’re all in this together, and the sooner we figure that out and act like it, the better our lives will be during this short visit. ~~Pollyanna

  9. Great post for a monday morning, nice change of point of view for the week to come.
    So Mr. Ure i usaly keep this stuff to my selfe, but if you eaver need a break from the usual doom and gloom. I have a friendly challange or 2 for the selfe proclaimed “Prince of Solder”
    I am really enjoying the reader comments and breaking news lately .

    • Bring ’em on, bubba. Prince of solder doesn’t like SMT although I do have a Radical Instruments 245 microscope for just such things… The solder king is putting up his incredible antenna this week – a HUGE long wire antenna…more in the Thursday AM column

  10. Hey George

    Longtime reader….. The idols name is Mammon (the golden calf)…. I’m amazed you still get actual phone calls (I still have a stupid phone)…. most people text in Orwellian new speak(OMG)…. yes we are being compartmentalized(stand in line) …. autonomy is not encouraged (bang-bang)…. If I sound like a robot it is just to blend in (hide)….click

  11. This is so funny, because I was just having a conversation with a group of friends (I am 35, & the group was all under the age of 40) laughing about how we just don’t understand why our parents leave voice mails on our cell phones. We see that they called, we assume they had something to tell us, and we call back when we can. There is no need for “Hi, this is your mother, give me a call when you can!” The voicemail notification & missed call notification are literally listed on my phone as being from mom, and it is implied that she wants to talk to me because she called me in the first place. And then we have to go into our voicemail purely just to delete a message, which isn’t the end of the world of course (I’m no lazy millennial, I swear!) but just yet another notification to clear. Feels really superfluous in terms of getting across the basic “call me” information, and yet is comically consistent with all of the parents of my friends. Don’t get me wrong, we weren’t “complaining” – just chuckling about how everyone’s parents over the age of 55 seem to do this. I happen to have a 13 year old son with a phone, and it just would not occur to me to leave him a voicemail. Then again, I wouldn’t ever call him either, unless he was late coming home from soccer & I was trying to get his attention with a ringing phone in his back pack!! We otherwise strictly text. Or just send each other funny memes. ;)

    • So what is your communication mode if there is an emergency I’m talking about a real emergency what is your code for that comma question mark in a real family situation

    • No one does a heads-up context VM? Like, “Call me because Uncle Joe is in the hospital”. “Call me because I need your advice on an Android app for photos.” “Call me because I got a call from someone who says you owe them money”.

      Yes I’m over 50, and I spent years in customer service — without the inane scripts now used by the offshore folks. You put yourself in someone else’s shoes and give them a reason to engage with you.

  12. Good morning George,

    The subject of good manners is definitely appropriate and timely. Some accommodation to the needs of the busy folks makes sense, but not to the exclusion of valuing their humanity.

    I’d suggest that links to videos or other info is quite sensible, in that the receiver always has the choice to click or not. Embedded videos are even OK, though they are unreliable. A video or audio that starts when a page is loaded are beyond annoying – they could cause an incident if it happened at work. Major news sites are famous for this.

    BTW, PLEASE post a link to videos rather than, or along with embedding them. Some of our browsers just show white space. Thank you in advance.

    Leaving no message is appropriate between friends that are OK with it, but not for strangers. I’ve never been able to end a call without a “goodbye”, or equivalent. A little politeness really does help social interaction. I’ve found that engaging most cashiers and service workers with a smile and greeting helps the interaction greatly, and feels good too.

    I personally wish that sir/ma’am had never been invented, since I was always called by name until age 60, and now I’m just a “sir”, rather than a named person. This is true even when I ask that people call me by name.

  13. Wish I could delete the current term of “No Problem” which has replaced “You’re Welcome”.

  14. My pet peeve is the lack of situation awareness – folks stopping right outside of an exit door, folks stopping at the bottom of a flight of stairs, standing in the open doorway of an elevator, trying to get on a bus or train before other passengers exit, turning the shopping carriage across the entire aisle.

    People just look where your mass is at and notice how it impacts others.

  15. Great column, ah manners, you just have to keep plugging along and try to teach others. 56 years old and still can’t get away from yes ma’am or no sir. The funny thing is alot of women think I’m disrespecting them. I say it to young or old. I was brought up with manners and have taught my kids and now grandkids. We can’t give up the fight and ju st say oh well, it’s the times. Maybe time for a global reset.

  16. As a relatively new RN, I am still learning to be “theraputic” in my communication, rather than “clinical.” The difference is in empathetic listening. And communication is many times non-verbal. An instructor pointed me to the Society of Rogerian School (squish-the-title-together-dot-org) Rogerian Nurses define “person” as:
    “an irreducible, indivisible, pan-dimensional energy field identified by pattern and manifesting characteristics that are specific to the whole and cannot be predicted from the parts”.
    (Rogers, 1992)

    This identifies Rogers’ definition of person as different from most other nurse theorists’ definitions as it should not be regarded as a holistic view (the sum of the parts), the view held by most of the latter, as Rogers has stated that the person is more than and different from the sum of the parts and cannot even be effectively divided.

    A physical body does not constitute a human being (Sarter, 1988a) as the human field is energy which extends beyond the physical boundary. “This human field is synergistic; that is, it has characteristics that are derived from the whole and cannot be predicted from the parts” (Sarter, 1988a).”

    My belief is that we should attempt to communicate with others – not just in the clinical setting, but in all interpersonal communications. And written Internet communications are obviously not conducive to encouraging theraputic communication.

    I guess the bottom line in all of this is, as my instructor wrote it, “Technology is great for what is necessary in process improvement and care. But one cannot remove the nurse [person] that cares for those entrusted to him or her.”

  17. I have bee visiting your site for many years now and have never been unhappy with your take on the world. That is rare. Thank you for the insight and different take on life.

  18. Normally I would have email these to you , and #4 here is a rabbit trail to follow but today’s post makes it sound like you do not want emails. You can inform your wife that the way things have worked on the internet going back to the days of A news is if you have published an email address you are soliciting FOR comments. And by emailing the above to you this would: 1) Establish social capital and 2) use you as an amplifier of the messages. By creating this “blog” you are attempting to create your own social capital for yourself and others. “Write when you get rich” is not seen as an instruction, but a ‘tag line’. I can restrict my interaction to just the comment section and attempts to clarify/correct VS pointing out ‘blog fodder’ you may not be aware of.

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