It's been more than two days since The New York Times's Nick Bilton typed his tirade on digital etiquette, effectively declaring the end of nice when it comes to voicemails and emails and more, and now the thundering contrarian herds of mean are coming for your salutations. We have to say, politely, that these prescriptions on how not to communicate have gotten a little out of hand.
Today, for example, The Week's Chris Gayomali explained how benign email sign-offs make us all sound like terrible people. "Best," for example, can "feel abrupt"; "thank you" can "sound forced." Taking that a step further, Slate, as only Slate can, called for the abolition of email sign-offs, forever and always. "Heretofore, I do not want—nay, I will not accept—any manner of regards. Nor will I offer any. And I urge you to do the same," writes Mathew J.X. Malady, who doesn't even make an exception for such flourishes in the format that probably birthed email in the first place — the business exchange. And, really, that's just harsh for no good reason.
The Atlantic Wire already put together some guidelines for how to get by in this cruel online world, but the general upshot was simple: Being nice won't hurt anybody. And whether these latest attempts to usher in the age of evil stem from reactionary blog posts or literal rude awakenings, they're certainly more harmful than helpful. Why hate someone for adding on a "sincerely" or a "cheers" at the end of an email? So what if you're sick of the words — that's just adding negativity in a situation that doesn't need any. Indeed, while trying to kill kindness, Slate's Malady ends up making a pretty great case for niceties: "I finally realized the ridiculousness of spending even one second thinking about the totally unnecessary words that we tack on to the end of emails." The closing words of an email message don't matter all that much. It takes about one tenth of a second to glance at them, if a reader even decides to move her eyes that far down the screen. The attention span has already been killed; why so aggressively kill the sign-off along with it? Whither it may, but murder it does not deserve.