Thank You, Jerk: On Digital Etiquette

We can all agree on one thing: the problem with America today is that everybody is too polite. It’s annoying! Everywhere you go, it’s strangers tipping their hats to you as they walk down the sidewalk, whistling a jaunty tune. Drivers on roadways insisting that you go ahead of them, and then giving you a smile and a wave. Store clerks and waiters earnestly thanking you for their business. And it’s got to stop.

Luckily, New York Times writer Nick Bilton is on the case. In an article that he will probably one day regret writing, the technology journalist rails against the habit that threatens to destroy the very fabric of American civilization as we know it:

Some people are so rude. Really, who sends an e-mail or text message that just says “Thank you”? Who leaves a voice mail message when you don’t answer, rather than texting you? Who asks for a fact easily found on Google? Don’t these people realize that they’re wasting your time?


Finally. It’s about time someone said it: basic human decency is a complete waste of time, and people who exhibit even a passing concern for others’ feelings are destroying America, not to mention personally offending Nick Bilton — which is, let’s be honest, the worst crime of all.

I mean, the man is busy! Do you have any idea how much of his time is wasted by getting text messages that say “Thank you”? Each message wastes — hold on, let me do the math – one second of his precious, precious life. And when you multiply that by the number of people who are grateful to Nick Bilton for something, you’re talking about three seconds per year that he could be spending writing ill-considered think pieces about how people should be more considerate to Nick Bilton. Consider this:

In the age of the smartphone, there is no reason to ask once-acceptable questions: the weather forecast, a business phone number, a store’s hours. But some people still do. And when you answer them, they respond with a thank-you e-mail.

Savages! It’s almost like there are some people in the world who don’t even have smartphones! Or people who are older and not as smugly comfortable with modern technology as Nick Bilton! And they must be stopped before they do something polite and friendly ever again. Our nation depends on it. Luckily, Bilton has a solution, which you should remember next time you’re tempted to thank somebody for doing you a favor:

How to handle these differing standards? Easy: think of your audience. Some people, especially older ones, appreciate a thank-you message. Others, like me, want no reply. “It is important to think about who the relationship is with,” [etiquette expert Daniel Post] Senning said.

It couldn’t be more simple. Before being nice to somebody, make sure that person isn’t a whiny ingrate who can’t handle being thanked, and who bizarrely misinterprets basic politeness as a time-wasting affront. You might be thinking, “But there are only, like, four people in the world that arrogant and oblivious, and one of them is Nick Bilton, who I will never need to thank for anything.” True! But do you really want to take that chance? 

No, you don’t. Or else you might end up the subject of one of his future passive-aggressive articles about why people who care about people are the suckiest people in the world.

“Someone found my wallet, and then made me walk two blocks to pick it up. Who has time for that?

“My friends cooked me a dinner when I came back from my trip to Europe. But the potatoes they served weren’t cooked in duck fat. Why don’t they just kick me to death with steel-toed boots?”

“I just got a handwritten letter from my grandmother telling me how proud I’ve made our family. Has she never heard of e-mail?”

Nick, if you want, feel free to use any of the above ideas for your next article.

(No need to thank me. Obviously.)


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