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Modern Public Behavior why and how it has Changed over the Years

“We live in a decaying age. Young people no longer respect their parents. They are rude and impatient. They frequently inhabit taverns and have no self- control.”

The quote is an inscription found on an ancient Egyptian tomb quoted from Fuller’s “I seem to be a Verb”. It shows us that some people’s problems with manners didn’t start today. The older generations are traditionally unhappy about the behaviour of the younger ones and this can be attributed to the ever-evolving system of habits that we consider appropriate public behaviour. But by what are today’s manners shaped?

First of all there is the inevitable technological advance. People use their cell-phones in public places and with the appearance of smart phones and tablets, this habit grows even further. While this in itself is not disturbing to others, some do this overly loud, they play their music or show videos to each other etc. which can disturb others around.

Second, the rigid etiquette system that once predominated most educated people’s social interaction seems to be fading. This could be explained by multiculturalism: a lot of nations with their own habits and behavioural norms are living now together in almost every major city – and their rules are often in conflict with each other.

For example for a Kenyan, it is important that one smiles and laughs while having small talk, while Russians like to reserve their smiles to those closest to them. But as it is the human nature to adapt to new things quickly, people don’t get outraged about these once they get used to and learn to respect other cultures.

Most people became more cautions with openly judging others’ behaviour. Maybe they are not being rude, they just come from a different backgrounds. This in fact does show more tolerance towards other cultural or social backgrounds rather than the death of manners.

Another perspective on tolerance is that people are not that easily shocked anymore. After the outrage about rock n roll music in the ’50s, the long-haired hippies in their colorful clothes in the ’60s, punks with mohawks and non-stop gum-chewing in the ’70s, it seems people ran out of energy to be upset about every new fashion. Tattoos and piercings are commonly worn by the masses (though at some jobs they may have to be on places not visible, or they can ask the person to cover it) and one really has to put in effort to get a haircut that causes a public uproar.

Then there is social development of course. Things that were common even a few decades ago, such as smoking in public, are frowned upon these days. Before it was polite to give one’s seat not only to older people or pregnant women but also to all women in general. Today some might be hesitant – women, when someone offers them a seat can react offended, implying that the person thinks they are too old, or part of a “weaker” gender. It also became questionable who should pay the bill in restaurants and bars .

Besides the gender question there is a linguistic one as well. For example a number of different words came to replace “please” and “thank you” that might bother those who are used to the classic formula, but probably “cheers” has just as much gratefulness in it.  

Of course this does not necessarily mean that people have to forget how to be polite or attentive, but also doesn’t mean there are no impolite people, only innovative ones. New generations usually have different views on what is and what is not appropriate. And if one does not like the new habits that appeared they shouldn’t worry too much, it will change in a few decades.