Over the weekend we attended a fundraiser dinner which featured a keynote speaker. I was more than a bit appalled at the lack of courtesy exhibited by many of the attendees. I can somewhat understand that people would keep talking when the emcee would cut in with an announcement. The room was loud enough that they might not have even been able to hear her start talking.
But during the keynote speaker’s presentation I could hear quite a few people talking loudly in the back, as if they felt they needed to compete with the speaker. Small children were running up and down the aisle, squealing loudly as they ran, their parents following close behind. At first I thought they were taking their noisy kids out, but no, before long they’d be back again, headed the other direction, over and over again.
I felt terrible for the speaker having to talk over these people. I felt terrible for the organization who had sponsored him to come speak. Considering we were supposedly all there to support the organization, it was irritating to see the lack of support and respect from some of these people.
This was not an isolated incident. A few months ago our kids’ elementary school held a back-t0-school night to inform us all on what was going on at the school this year. As the principal was talking a great number of adults in the back were also talking, and with not even a token attempt to do so quietly. I could barely hear the principal at all.
What happened? When did we stop teaching and/or expecting audience etiquette? I was taught at an early age how to behave during public speeches, performances and the like. Evidently quite a few were not. We’ve become desensitized by out technology. Are we spending so much time interacting with screens that we forget how to interact with real people?
When everything is digital and viewable on screens smaller than your palm it becomes very easy to regard all situations as if everything were separated by that “fourth wall” that keeps the viewer ignorant of the wider world. We need not worry about talking during a YouTube video. They can’t hear us. We walk around in public places yelling into our cellphones, and the only time we take it outside is if the signal is bad.
Give us live music or a public speaker and we evidently have no idea how to behave. If something needs to be said, we say it now–and loudly. Forget whispering, we’ve forgotten even how to use our “inside voices”. Someone else is trying to listen to the speaker? Heh. Sucks to be them, heh heh. It’s all about me and what I want. And right now I want to talk. It’s been at least five minutes since I’ve heard the duclet sound of my own voice, and oh, I miss it so.
I have no idea how to turn this annoying trend around. But if the parents don’t set the example the kids certainly won’t learn.