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How Do Social Codes Change With Changing Times?

Updated: Feb 19, 2021

Even robots and droids are minding their manners.

“Hello, I don’t think we’ve been introduced… A pleasure to meet you.”

Can you guess which famous movie character gave this perfect, polite introduction? The answer is C-3PO — that’s right, it’s a robot!

You might recall how polite C-3PO was throughout all the Star Wars movies. Believe it or not, his programming included etiquette and protocol. Even droids are minding their manners.

With AI technology an ever growing part of today’s reality, social codes of good manners need to remain intact. Amazon has an optional, politeness feature for children called “Magic Word”, as does Google with their feature “Pretty Please.” I believe optional and for children is a mistake! We all need to remember the magic words, even and especially when talking to a robot.

Social codes are evolving along with technology and everything else. In order to be successful and relevant, you need to keep up, even when it is not black and white.

Concern about how technology would change life and the behavior of humans has been around longer than we might have expected! For example, The New York Times reported in 1904 that the invention of the telephone would wrought “rampant” rudeness:

“The general use of the telephone, instead of promoting civility and courtesy, is the means of the fast dying out of what little we have left.”

It’s been 116 years since and we are still, for the most part and from my experience, civil and courteous. As telephone technology evolved, so did the social codes.

Social codes dictate that we ought to be considerate when using our cell phones in public. We should not speak loudly when in public, and we should put them away in restaurants and at the movies.

But, there are times when I wonder if that old report is right when it comes to civility and where some choose to use their cell phones. When was the last time you were taking public transportation and the person next to you had a conversation on the phone the entire time? Or, have you ever been in a public restroom and had to listen to the person in the next stall talking loudly on their cell phone? Just nasty.

The social codes of telephone usage have had to evolve because most of us have cell phones — Pew Research reports that 96% of us in the United States have one. When and where we can use our phones has certainly changed — it’s not surprising to see a couple sharing things on their phones at a nicer dinner, as an example. But not so far as public restrooms, for goodness sakes!

What has stayed the same is that we need to be polite while speaking on the phone. Although not face to face communication, treat the person on the other end of the phone as if it were! We still need to answer the phone warmly, carry on a civil conversation and say goodbye kindly. The same codes can be used for texting, taking pictures and everything else we use our cell phones for.

As technology progresses and new devices come into our daily lives, social codes will evolve to suit the technology, but our basic core codes of civility and kindness will remain. Whatever technology brings our way, our basic humanity must stay intact — or we are in big trouble.

We can argue that social codes will become even more important as our population grows and technology advances. The 2019 Revision of the UN’s World Population Prospects predicts that by the year 2050, there will be nearly 10 billion of us. How many robots and droids might we be interacting with on a daily basis by then?

It’s fun to guess what our future will be like with ever reaching technological advances, and how it will impact our lives. One thing is for sure, our basic human instincts to be kind will endure, and surely compliment our new technology.


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