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The Fight For Civility In A Facebook Generation Begins With A Salutation


The other day I got an e-mail that was signed “Brgrds.” Brgrds?? What does that mean? Oh. Right. “Best Regards.” So, why on earth the author didn't just take the extra three (?) seconds and five key strokes to actually write the words “Best Regards,” I have no idea, but it was a big “aha!” moment for me. 

Formality seems to have gone completely out the window in these high-tech, ultra-convenient iPhone/Facebook/ drive thru times, and instead of serving to bring us closer together, the past decade’s decline in formality has actually caused us to become far more isolated from one another.

Now, “Brgrds” was in no way the worst offense, and I actually find the person who wrote it to be otherwise delightful, but it struck me as such a callous and hurried gesture that it served the exact opposite purpose that one typically associates with the warmth of a letter’s closing. What’s the rush? Was that message so unimportant that it had to be dashed off so quickly that vowels became a time constraint? In the end, it would have been better if the author had used no closing at all.

"Downton Abbey" fans can probably appreciate the shift from uncomfortable Victorian-era corsets to this season’s 1920’s style drop waist, and I for one am very grateful that my silverware collection includes two sizes of spoons, not nine. But the dismissal of almost all formality is starting to feel very unfriendly.

My resolution this year was to be more formal in ways that would hopefully add substance and civility to my life. More home-cooked meals, less take out. More phone calls, fewer text messages. More letters, fewer e-mails. More shoes, less flip flops. My intentions aren’t based on snobbery; on the contrary I think that formality at its best simply lets others know we care about them.

The purpose of etiquette is not to create exclusivity by creating a silly set of rules about stemware and place settings, but to make other people feel welcome and special. Time-saving gadgets and apps and strategies abound, but what are we doing with all that time that we’ve saved?

Jennifer Klee is a full time mom and part-time freelance writer. She has two daughters, one husband and a turtle. You can find her blogging at the Elizabeth Letter.

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