Yesterday I was discussing the cultural differences between Germans and English people. It was generally agreed that Germans were direct and that we English couch our intercourse in “buffer words”. A German might say “Give me the mustard” and an English person might say “Could you pass me the mustard”. This difference becomes more obvious when we communicate via Email. I know Germans who have learned to be less direct in their Emails but I have never heard of the English modifying their emails to be more direct. I think that Email is a problematic medium in any case. When you throw Germans / English mannerisms into the mix you are more or less bound to get misunderstanding and bad feeling.
Blogging also has issues. When commenting on News sites such as the Guardian or the BBC I have noticed the tendency toward Last Word Syndrome. One person comments, another pointedly disagrees, offence is taken, and a response written immediately off the cuff. Neither party wants to let the other have the last word and either the thread deteriorates into abuse or the argument goes around in circles as one or both of the parties merely reiterate their arguments. I have had this on my blog and with work Emails. I guess that, with Emails, it’s more common when we’re stupid enough to cc others into the exchange.
I think one problem is that Emails are written in the same style as the spoken word but may be read more like letters. It took hundreds, if not thousands, of years for us to refine the art of writing so that pedants can lecture us on spelling and grammar. As Email and the web are very new I guess we still have not worked out the ground rules. Perhaps after a couple of hundreds years things will have improved and we will receive sarcastic comments about our inability to understand the rules on the use of smilies.
This week after a couple of email exchanges I received a brief and stupid reply. My immediate reaction was to respond with “Da!!!!!”. I refrained and let the other guy have the last word. It rankles and I imagine him thinking that his boorish behaviour had outwitted me but, for this week at least, I consider I nipped the thing in the bud and refrained from petty behaviour. Perhaps I will make a habit of it…….but don’t count on it.