The modern challenge of minding our ps and qs

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There is an argument that people living in 21st Century Britain have it easier than our ancestors ever did.

We stopped burning witches centuries ago and it is a long time since a child worker last lost an arm, but we still face a multitude of challenges that our great-great-grandparents never did.

One of the biggest challenges we face today is minding our ps and qs.

While I am not going to embark on a rant about the ills of political correctness, it is worth pointing out that I am not sure what I can say without offending at least someone.

I am not alone. Take the case of the two legal eagles who find themselves at the heart of a national debate following an unfortunate online spat on LinkedIn of all places.

LinkedIn is the place where millions of people the world over gild the lily about their careers.

The controversy came when a barrister complimented a much younger lawyer on the photograph she used on her LinkedIn page. The unwanted subject of Mr Double Barrell’s comments – he said her photograph was stunning – blasted back online that his ‘objectification’ of her was beyond the pale.

Cue a mediastorm which has prompted a debate about what is objectification. Is paying a member of the opposite sex a compliment on their appearance always inappropriate? Of course not, but it should come with a users’ handbook 
because it is a minefield. This chap, who, as a solicitor, should be an expert on how and when to use the right words, failed miserably. Telling someone who you have never had contact with that their picture is the best you have ever seen is not the ideal opening gambit. But sexist? I think not, more misguided.

Also the lawyer on the receiving end could do with a course on how to use social media as I am sure she never expected the fallout which has followed. She would have been better sending him a private message or quietly breaking their fledgling link.

The fact this chap is 57 and lived the best part of half a century without social media might have something to do with his abject failure to make a good impression.

It is a lesson that many of us could do with learning about many aspects of modern life: from when is it appropriate to stand up for a lady or when to say thanks to another motorist for giving way.

One of the most valuable lessons I have learned in recent years that there is seemingly an entire generation out there seeking to take offence at almost anything.