Sociability is the quality of being more sociable. How did this definition come into being? Is it a quality that we are inherently born with or are we influenced by facets of society that alter our behavior to make it more socially acceptable? Through what sources is sociability being taught to us? The article “Touch Someone: The Telephone Industry Discovers Sociability” describes the evolution of the telephone as a social tool and in this essay, it will be compared to culture as a device to inculcate sociability.
“Touch Someone: The Telephone Industry Discovers Sociability” is insightful as it combines the significance of telephones from a technological, industrial and social perspective. Telephones have developed from being a fascinating technology for communication to one of the most widely used social tools. As described in the article and seen today, the telephone industry is money-making and the technology has evolved to an extent that it traverses most of the world’s most remote areas. Telephones are often perceived as antisocial and an obstacle that prevents face-to-face interaction. Through telephones we can now communicate and maintain relationships across the globe. Hence, according to me, a telephone is more social than antisocial.
Another circumstance in which people are taught how to interact with one another in a friendly way is through culture. Each culture imbibes certain mannerisms that are expected of men, women, children, adults or elders belonging to that particular ethnicity. From the smallest thing such as “keep your elbows off the dinner table” to “touch elders feet when you greet them to show respect”; culture guides us to behave in a socially acceptable way according to where we come from.
Sociability in cultures has to be taught, either through direct instruction or observation. People were influenced to think of telephones as a social rather than technological object through advertisements and other tools as explained in the article. In this way both telephones and culturally accepted behavior have to be taught. For our generation, just as we grew up with the culture that surrounds us and automatically gets imbibed in us; we also grew up with telephones as a social device and hence both the cases are similar. However, telephones have an industrial, technological and profit motivation where as the inculcation of culture is to showcase heritage, keep traditions alive and pride in one’s ancestry. Culture is not always taught intentionally. Most of the time, subtle behaviors and habits of adults are picked up by children., which is why it is important to live in a healthy environment.
Culture differs from place to place. Though certain norms are common to most cultures, some are extremely specific to a particular ethnicity and are important to being perceived as “friendly” in that faction of society. For example, in India we would never call our parents or any adult by their first name. We always address them as Papa (dad), Dadaji (paternal grandfather), Chachi (aunt), Nani (maternal grandmother), etc. Where as, in western culture it is acceptable to address elders by their first names. Cultural behavior also differs between genders. In India, men and women have a clear distinction in their roles in society. This leads to a difference in the perception of what is appropriate and how one must conduct themselves and thus society teaches us how to behave sociable.
The two examples of devices through which we can develop into more sociable beings show two different perceptions of sociability and two extremely varied methods. Culture specific behaviors are not necessarily received in the same way by a diverse group of people and the telephone can sometimes be viewed as promoting anti-sociability. This makes us question the definition of sociability and whether a person can be perceive as sociable to various groups of people.