Thursday, July 19, 2012

Multitasking and Manners

I have become more aware since I read Bringing Up Bebe of the breakdown of manners in NYC. I hate writing this next post because it makes me sound like the stereotype of the crotchety librarian. Nevertheless, it has bothered me enough to that point where I felt I had to do a post on it.

Some observations:
  • people talk at other people while the other people are on the phone. The talkers seem to forget that it is hard to carry on two conversations at once. It is actually more efficient for the person to finish the phone conversation, then deal with the person in front of them.
  • the human brain cannot actually multitask (see this NPR article). This is why it is more efficient to let the talker finish the conversation before s/he deals with the person before him/her.
  • personal computers did not become common until the 1980's. Gen X was the first generation to grow up with computers, followed by Gen Y and the Millennials. Human beings do not mutate as quickly as lab rats or fruit flies. Three generations of computer-using humans do not translate to brains born instantly capable of multitasking.
Nevertheless, everyone seems to think the brain (or at least the American brain) has evolved enough in thirty years so that it is possible to carry on an intelligent conversation while texting, driving, walking, and/or riding a bike. They therefore don't think it's rude to interrupt people since they don't view anything as an interruption - the person interrupted should just multitask more efficiently. As a result, children watch their parents interrupt people and think it's OK to interrupt adults.

They also learn not to respect adults. Druckerman gives several examples in her book of American children who do not respect adults, from rude teenagers to younger children who bite and hit their parents. Interestingly enough, Peter Mayle frequently describes rude adult  Parisians in his books, so the French child-rearing method is obviously not fool-proof.

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