I am your typical argumentative Indian. In fact, I come from a family of highly argumentative parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles. When we interact with one another, the conversation cannot be devoid of arguments, unless and until all parties are suffering from tooth-ache or something. We are a sect that prefers having our filter coffee with some hot-headed arguments rather than with hot and spicy ‘pakoras’.
Give me an avenue to argue and I would take you full on, heedless of how energy-draining the exercise might be. For instance, I can argue endlessly about the merits of summer over winter, of humidity over desert dryness, of Mumbai over any other city in the world – the list goes on.
Other than being argumentative, I am also extremely hot-headed and the “talk before I think” variety. There have been thousands of times when the uncontrolled me has blurted out hurtful words and felt terribly remorseful in retrospect.
And, that is why I love the written mode of communication. Writing offers a luxury speech can never ever provide – that luxury called time. Time to think clearly, space out arguments (rational or otherwise), and avoid awkward, wounding statements (mostly).
Not surprisingly, some of the biggest quarrels of my life have been resolved over e-mail. Thankfully so! For, I do not think the outcome would have been very pleasant if I had tried to deal with them in my “fly-off-the-handle” mode.
However, over the years, I have been noticing a marked difference in the written etiquette; of mine and of others around me. Perhaps, too much of it has spoilt us sick. Today, most of our communication is written, for most of our time is spent online. Chatting and social networking have given us the license to be a little more direct than we would normally be, a little more blunt than would normally be expected and a little more rude than would normally be accepted.
Is it the comfort that we might never have to meet the person we are interacting with, that gives us this license? Or, is it the notion that nothing that is written in such an environment should be taken seriously?
I do not have an answer to that.
But, perhaps the time has come to include courses on online etiquette for primary and secondary class students, along with the ones on public speaking and social interaction.
For, you can tell me that you did not like what I said or did. It would lead to a healthy argument. However, if you tell me that I am stupid or ugly, you definitely need some classes in etiquette. No?