The Higher Our Tech, the Ruder We Get

By Purcell, Tom | Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, April 13, 2013 | Go to article overview

The Higher Our Tech, the Ruder We Get


Purcell, Tom, Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review


Get this: Social media are making us ruder.

According to Reuters, social media users face "an increase in rudeness online with people having no qualms about being less polite virtually than in person."

I think our rudeness began ticking up with the introduction of another technological innovation: the telephone.

As phones became commonplace in American homes, people could communicate miles apart with each other -- rather than being face- to-face.

People are much more likely to say things over the phone that they would never try to get away with saying while looking you in the eyes.

Technology continued to evolve, and so did our opportunities for rudeness. When answering machines become widely available in the '70s, people initially considered them rude.

Callers had the sense that the people they were calling were using the devices to screen their calls -- and they were, so callers often hung up before leaving a message.

The telephone company solved that problem with the introduction of "*69" -- punching in *69 to retrieve the number of the last person to call you.

Boy, did that technology make us ruder. I remember coming home once from a business meeting to find someone had hung up on my answering machine without leaving a message. I dialed *69, retrieved the number and called.

The phone rang four times before an answering machine picked up. A woman's recorded voice said, "Hello, Bill and I aren't in right now ... ." I had no idea who the woman was, so I hung up.

I returned home again later that day to discover another person had hung up on my machine. I dialed *69, retrieved the number and called. I got an answering machine -- "Hello, Bill and I aren't in right now ... ." -- and hung up.

A few moments later, my phone rang.

"Hello," I said.

"Who is this?" said a woman.

"Who is this?" I said.

"You called me and hung up!" she said. Ah, it was Bill's wife!

"You called me and hung up! …

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The Higher Our Tech, the Ruder We Get
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