In the 1990’s, visions of the future included a businessman in his pajamas putting on a headset and then appearing in “virtual reality,” where he would appear to be wearing a crisp business suit to anyone also in that virtual space.

….Maybe that vision was a little conservative. Helmets aside, we already live in an age where face-to-face communications can involve faces thousands of miles away. But all this communication is coming at the cost of what the old folks used to call “manners.”

A study conducted by Radvision, an Avaya company,  surveyed 22,027 adults on their use of video conferencing and video chat. The study found, among other things, that more 20% would dress more casually for a work-related video call than they would an in-person meeting; it also revealed that 16% have used video in a job interview, or to fire someone; but what caught the eye of many was that 13% considered it acceptable to use video chat in the bathroom. Now I can understand being in the bathroom if you are having a private conversation between you and your sweetie, but, in a business setting? Hand me a stick and give me a lawn to shoo people away from, because I think that’s about 13% too high.

This lack of boundaries in a digital age, in my humble opinion, is due to the radical skewing of physical and mental presence at a task at hand. If you’re in your own house, you can do whatever you please, but the other person is in an office where they had to actually get up, get dressed, go out in public, and interact with other people. I can give you an example from my own life: Just this week, I saw a car creeping into my lane, and looked over to see a woman (not a teenage girl, but a woman who was driving a luxury car) texting on her phone. This woman’s mind was engrossed in whatever conversation she was having, and didn’t give one thought to the fact that she was in a car with no one driving it!

Bob Romano, the global vice president of marketing for Radvision, called it evolving video etiquette. Is technology making us more rude, or is it just freeing us up to be ourselves? I can agree with that, but it also serves as a reminder to just how connected we are to people of different ages, different cultural history, and even different weather. Perhaps the businessman of the future won’t be putting on a visor, but will be wearing a hockey jersey as he graciously bows to a Japanese business partner half a world away.

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