Should We Be Polite to Alexa?

Hey Alexa, please tell me the time. Would you use good manners when talking to a virtual assistant, like Amazon’s Alexa? If you said no, you’re not alone. Only 19 percent of people with voice-controlled smart speakers regularly say “please” when talking to them. That’s according to a 2019 study by the Pew Research Center.  

Many say there’s no need to be kind to machines. They point out that we don’t type “please” when looking for information from Google or other search engines. 

But others argue that it’s rude to bark orders—even if you’re talking to a device. Thomas Farley is an expert on manners. He says being polite to voice assistants can build good habits. 

“The more we do it when we interact with a smart speaker, the more likely we are to remember to do it when we’re speaking to an actual human being,” Farley says.

Here’s what two of our readers think.

Saying “please” and “thank you” are good ways to be respectful. Alexa and Siri are made to sound like real people, even though they’re not. Being kind to them is great practice for being courteous to real people we deal with. 

When I talk to my Alexa at home, I use good manners when I ask her to do things like playing a video on YouTube. She may not understand me, but what’s the harm in being amiable? Manners should always matter! 

Saying “please” and “thank you” to people is the right thing to do, but being polite to a smart speaker isn’t necessary. When Alexa and Siri give us information, they’re just doing what they were programmed to do. We can’t hurt their feelings, because they don’t have any!

Also, we don’t say “please” to other devices, like refrigerators or toasters, so why should we say it to smart speakers? We can use good social skills when talking to actual people.

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