We had a pretty heated debate around the dinner table the other evening, all centered around this question:

At what point is it acceptable to tell a stranger that their bad manners are disruptive?

I am THE WORST for judging people on their table manners. I notice everything and I think less and less of you the more you offend me. I honestly believe that there are reasons behind everything considered to be good manners (for example: if you place your cutlery together at the end of a meal, people will know that you are finished eating and they can clear your plate. It also make it easier to clear multiple dishes at once without cutlery flying all over).

Since I take manners so seriously, you’d think I’d be up for telling others when they are being disruptive. However, I believe a part of having really great manners is not making other people feel bad about their lack of the same. Maybe it’s a cultural difference, maybe it is a lack of education – to be honest, I can’t pretend to know why someone lacks manners. Whatever the reason is, it really isn’t my place to point it out to them.

After talking about this, it got me thinking about the parallels between coffee shop behaviour and Internet behaviour. Do you go around in real life telling people how to behave? If not, why do you insist on doing it online? There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t read something from some mildly-Internet-famous marketing person (usually in the middle of a book tour), pointing out what not to do and what you’ve done wrong. Why does it matter? Isn’t the Internet just as public a space as the coffee shop? 

We often talk about not posting anything personal that you wouldn’t yell aloud or tell your mother. That same rule applies for finger pointing. If you wouldn’t go up to a stranger in person and tell them something, don’t do it on the Internet. It doesn’t matter if what they are doing is “wrong” in your opinion, if you tell them, you are the one being rude. Instead, just be the best example of how to do things correctly.