The ubiquitous use of modern technology means that the rules of etiquette are changing. We are accustomed to passengers on the train shouting in to their mobile phones and inane ringtones interrupting conversations; though I, as someone who doesn’t have a mobile, feel a bit prickly about this, I do realise it has become part of the soundtrack of life.
But it has gone beyond the noise; the complete disregard of privacy is even more worrying. A friend drinking in a local pub received a romantic text message from his girlfriend. With no concern for the personal content of the text, he proceeded to toss his phone to his mate to compose an unsubtle reply. Nobody concerned was appalled by this behaviour or saw in it a lack of manners or a breach of privacy. It is doubtful if a love letter would have been so casually thrown around in the same way but somehow a similar code of conduct does not apply to text messages.
In the same way, photographs taken on Smartphones are shown around by the recipients in a cavalier and, for me at least, inappropriate way. My nephew shares the most intimate photographs with his friends. His phone is always with him, the images are there at his fingertips ready to share. Whether the girls who send the photos are aware of the amount of people viewing them is debatable but I suspect they can’t mind. I am told that a normal part of courtship is “sexting” which is the sending of sexually explicit messages and photographs between mobile phones. And of course any photographs on a digital device can be uploaded on to the internet and end up on any random site. Apparently it is quite normal for females dating a new man to ask for a picture of his erect penis before they sleep together. The picture of course will be approved by the girl’s friends. Nobody bats an eyelid at this and I am told it is “the modern way.”
Modesty and privacy seem to have gone by the wayside. On Facebook one can read details of associates’ sex lives, smear tests, contraceptives, tales of operations, childbirth stories-stuff that in another era would only have been shared with the closest of friends. Now it is on the internet for any random snooper to see and even if your privacy settings are at the highest level, it is Facebook that owns the copyright to all the text and photographs on the site.
The other problem with mobile phones is that arrangements are rarely firm. It is now acceptable for people to cancel arrangements with a casual text. Phoning and speaking in person would be more polite but carries with it the dilemma of embarrassment. Many now are hard-pushed to even have a verbal conversation; emails and texts are the order of the day. Land-line telephones, if this trend continues, will become obsolete. Real conversations will soon become an anachronism along with good old-fashioned manners, but if you want to be acquainted with your future husband’s erection before meeting him in person, then the good old mobile phone is the way.