Letter writing has become a quaint memory of the personal past that we once lived in. Its passing leaves a record of the times and the people. Philip Stanhope (1694-1773), the 4th Earl of Chesterfield, perhaps more famously remembered as Lord Chesterfield chronicled over three hundred letters to his son. In a letter sent shortly after he had resigned the seals of the position of Secretary of State, recuperating in Bath, he sent a letter dated 9th March 1748 with the following extract:
Having mentioned laughter, I must particularly warn you against it: and I could heartily wish that you may often be seen to smile, but never heard to laugh while you live. Frequent and loud laughter is the characteristic of folly and in manners: it is the manner in which the mob express their silly joy at silly things: and they call it being merry. In my mind, there is nothing so illiberal, and so ill-bred, as audible laughter. True wit, or sense, never yet made anybody laugh; they are above it: They please the mind, and give a cheerfulness to the countenance. But it is low buffoonery, or silly accidents that always excite laughter; and that is what people of sense and breeding should show themselves above. A man’s going to sit down in the supposition that he has a chair behind him, and falling down upon his breech for want of one, sets a whole company a laughing, when all the wit in the world would not do it; a plain proof, in my mind, how low and unbecoming a thing laughter is: not to mention the disagreeable noise it makes, and the shocking distortion of the face that it occasions.
Oh, how things have changed, and changed so completely from what was even possible to conceive. This weekend I was sent an invitation via LinkedIn. The choice was simple. It was between ‘Accept’ and ‘Ignore’. There was no option for an honourable ‘Sorry’. Contempt is below disdain and to ignore is probably somewhere between the two. However this is the choice given and this business model surely reflects what people want and how they behave. Communication is changing fast, our values and regard of others are changing with it.