Internet Etiquette

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I generally attempt to address some important current issue in this weekly column, relating to it such principles from the Bible that may apply. This week I’m departing from that format for some personal observations about internet etiquette

Relatively speaking, I am a novice to the internet, e-mail, and all that stuff. But now that I have been introduced to this new, rapidly-growing electronic phenomenon, I’m somewhat perplexed. Has all epistolary deportment been abandoned in this lightning-fast age of communication?

I freely confess to being from a different era — an older, more romantic (in the literary sense) period when folks were taught to be courteous to one another. Certain correspondence formalities were taken for granted. For example, a letter had a greeting, e.g., “Dear John,” or “My dear Mary.”

Now, in most e-mail, there is no salutation at all — not a “Dear Wayne,” or a, “Good morning to you,” or whatever. Sometimes it’s just a gruff: “Answer this question . . . ,” or, “Send me material on. . . .” Not infrequently, it’s almost with an attitude of — “And hurry up; I don’t like to be kept waiting!”

And then, occasionally, there’s an absence of any contingency. There’s no, “I know you may be busy, but if you have the time, would you . . .?” Or, “I’d be grateful if you could help me with this.” It’s almost as if you can hear that thumb and middle finger — “Snap! Snap! Get with it, buster!”

Finally, sometimes (much too often) there’s not even a name signed. For all I know, the correspondent might be Charlie Manson. To be honest, when an unsigned note intrudes upon my computer screen, I usually hit the “delete” key. I don’t have the time to communicate with ghosts — especially rude ones.

Then there are those unsolicited messages — like my screen is someone’s personal bulletin board. To friends one may grant some indulgence, but apparently some folks build these long lists of e-mail addresses. And every time they receive some cute little ditty, they hit “Forward,” and here it comes. And it takes time — valuable time — to determine if it’s a genuine need or request, or if it’s merely a relief for somebody’s boredom.

Some have elected to put their local church bulletins on the “net,” and, without any invitation, they send them along to scores of folks around the country. So we’re treated to all sorts of news — items that doubtless are fascinating to local members, but that have little relevance to folks across the nation. Again, it takes time to deal with such matters, even if it’s only to delete them.

One really ought to ask others if they want to be on his e-mail list, and then not be offended if he doesn’t feel he has the time to deal with an abundance of incoming e-mail.

It probably sounds as if I’m having a “bad” day. I’m really not. It just occurred to me that perhaps some of us need to take a moment and remind ourselves that perhaps it wouldn’t hurt if we tried to return to a kinder, more considerate era — when we took a little time to exercise some common politeness and concern for the feelings and time of others.

After all, we may be sitting in front of “mechanical brains,” but we still do have a real one. And it is the instrument though which the soul operates. How about a little warmth of soul in those internet communications?

‘Nuff said. By the way, please don’t copy this and forward it to those with whom you are irritated.