Debrett's, modern manners, and ‘phubbing’

A poll released by Debrett's shows that there is a general decline in the nation's social skills and manners - but I tend to disagree

Related Topics

Since 1769, the publishing house Debrett's has been the self-appointed guardian of the nation's manners. Or, as proclaimed on the website, Debrett's is the “authority on all matters of etiquette, social occasions, people of distinction and fine style”. Over the years, all sorts of helpful advice has been dispensed to the nation, like, for instance, the correct way to address a viscountess (and what to put on a place card should she come for dinner), the right shoes to wear for an afternoon at the polo, and why discussing money in a social setting is strictly verboten (itals).

But Debrett's, whose reputation was built on the authority of its genealogical guide to the British aristocracy, have made impressive efforts to keep pace with modern times, and they now give counsel on how to negotiate modern methods of communication with, as they say, "style and aplomb". I know what you're all thinking -  LOL. And certainly some of the advice does not require an etiquette expert to work out. "Messages of condolence sent by text are the ultimate faux-pas" (ital) is one such insight. Really? I thought "Sorry 4 ur loss" was the perfect way to convey my sympathy to a grieving relative.

I suppose the fact that the people at Debrett's feel the need to point this out supports their overarching view, supported by the results of a poll they released yesterday, that there is a general decline in the nation's social skills and manners, and that mobile phones in particular are blamed for encouraging rudeness. It's hard to disagree with this latter point, and the new phenomenon of "phubbing" - looking at your mobile phone while someone is talking to you - is an especially egregious facet of modern behaviour.

This is another example of how the mobile phone has made it increasingly difficult for people to live in the moment. I was having a drink with a friend the other day, and in the middle of what I thought was an amiable conversation, he expressed violent anger. Nothing to do with me: he was reading a text from his lawyer while I was talking. I considered myself well and truly "phubbed", and it's not pleasant. There is gathering momentum in the movement against "phubbing" and we can only hope that, one day, it becomes as socially unacceptable as lighting up a Marlboro without seeking permission.

In general, however, I'd take issue with Debrett's. I find that, in my daily encounters, people have rather good manners. On the bus, or on the Tube, I largely see helpfulness and politeness: someone offering up a seat, a commuter patiently explaining to a tourist how to get to Hyde Park, and a much greater sensitivity to the disabled. There may be several reasons for this - we would hope to be, after all, a more evolved society - but I believe it's something to do with a new culture of openness, exemplified bytoday's obsession with public announcements. Wherever we are, we're never far from a Tannoy voice apologising for something, explaining why a delay has occurred, or just giving helpful information. It may be annoying when you're trying to read a book, but I think it's helped turn us into nicer people.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Water Jetting / HGV Driver - Industrial Services

£14000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Skilled Labouring staff with id...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Services Executive - OTE £30,000

£16000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Salary: £16k - £20k Dependant o...

Recruitment Genius: Accountant

£35000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A specialist two partner firm o...

Recruitment Genius: HGV Drivers - Class 1 and 2 - Excellent Pay and Benefits

£16000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Class 1 and 2 HGV Drivers are r...

Day In a Page

Read Next

i Editor's Letter: The five reasons why I vote

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff

Daily catch-up: the gap between rich and poor has narrowed (a little) since the banking crisis

John Rentoul
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

Pakistani women come out fighting

Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

Education: LGBT History Month

Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot