OTTAWA — Sociologists and etiquette aficionados alike continue grappling with a societal shift of unprecedented proportions. The overall consensus blames the presidency of Donald Trump and the subsequent COVID-19 lockdown for the dramatic decline in human decorum. The one-two punch left manners in a state of disrepair and self-centredness at a historic high, with no signs of recovery in sight.

The 2016 election, which saw Donald Trump ascend to the Oval Office with a style more brashy/trashy than bashful/truthful, set the tone for what analysts are calling a “decency deficit.” Trump’s penchant for unfiltered tweets, bombastic rhetoric, and an approach to diplomacy best described as “kitchen sink” left many Americans questioning the boundaries of acceptable behaviour. “When the President can insult world leaders on Twitter, it’s hard to tell your kids to use their inside voices,” said etiquette maven Emily Evans.

Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit, forcing people indoors and onto social media, where the art of polite conversation was quickly lost in a sea of Zoom meetings and TikTok dances. Social distancing measures made traditional niceties like handshakes and friendly smiles relics of a bygone era. “Wearing a mask, I can’t even tell if someone’s sticking their tongue out at me,” lamented Margaret Kensington, a retired librarian. “We’ve become a society of faceless avatars.”

The lockdown’s emphasis on virtual communication further eroded decorum. “When you’re only seen from the waist up, pants become optional and interruptions by pets and children are the new norm,” observed Dr. Herbert Mink, a sociologist at McMaster University. “The mute button has replaced ‘excuse me,’ and ‘LOL’ is now an acceptable response to receiving bad news.”

Politicians followed suit, with parliamentary procedures giving way to MS Teams gaffes and viral soundbites. The notion of holding the floor with dignity has been replaced by holding a stable Wi-Fi connection. “Our legislators are now judged on their backgrounds and lighting rather than their policies,” said political commentator Grace Caruso.

Social media platforms, already a hotbed for impolite discourse, became the primary arena for public debate. “We’ve seen a marked increase in ALL-CAPS SHOUTING and emoji warfare,” reported cyber-civility advocate Eve Blanchard. “Disagreements that would once be settled with a stern letter or a face-to-face conversation are now resolved with GIFs and cancel culture.”

The combination of Trump’s unhinged lunacy and the pandemic’s isolation has left a lasting mark on social interactions. “We’ve forgotten how to small talk, and worse, we’ve forgotten why we ever bothered,” said urban anthropologist Nasim Savitri. “What was once a polite ‘How are you?’ is now a blunt ‘WTF?'”

While some optimists hope for a return to pre-2016 decorum, others believe the damage is irreversible. “This is our new reality,” sighed Kensington. “The days of polite society are as distant as our pre-pandemic handshakes.”

Is a world free of the artificial veneer of political correctness a better place to live? Whether the change is for better or worse remains a matter of debate, often conducted in comment sections with alternative facts, a lack of grammar, and a surplus of exclamation points.

By Sebastian Panache

Editor-in-Chief. You can follow him on Twitter @SebPanache, except he quit posting there after Elon bought it. Search for Mooseclean's on Mastodon instead.

Leave a Reply