Doug Haslam: Gischeleman’s Blog

January 23, 2008

Common Courtesies: Online needs to catch up with Real World

Filed under: social media — Tags: — doughaslam @ 11:20 pm

This week I was thinking about the “social” part of social media. Do we need to rein in behavior standards? I’m not talking about blog comment trolls and other social reprobates– I am thinking more along the lines of Miss Manners. Just because we are conversing online, and sometimes not in our off-line voice (but in avatars and pseudonyms), does not mean some common courtesy rules can’t apply.

One thing I have observed is the use of online invites, like eVites and Upcoming. People RSVP to events, but then don’t show up. Others don;t RSVP regrets when the invite asks them to. This is plain rude, and should not be accepted in offline life; nor should it be here. I will not outline specific examples I have seen, because frankly, in any single case I may not have all the information. So, this isn’t about calling out individuals.

Other things I have observed, both positive and negative. This is based on my experiences in social networks, so your experiences may be wildly different:

  • Accounting for tone, culture and language difference: online social networks have opened us up to a lot of different cultures, and different ways of communicating. Largely, I think online communities quickly attune to the heartbeat of the group, understanding what people mean, and how their expression comes across.
  • Knee-jerk responses: I actually have no problem with this. The Web actually breaks down inhibitions in some people who are usually shy in person, and in turn helps them communicate better in the “meat” world. Knee-jerks, speaking (typing) without thinking, etc., are al part of the process. So the lesson is not so much to think before you communicate online (though it’s not a bad idea), but to be tolerant of people’s mistakes. A lot of perceived rudeness is covered in the last bullet, the rest is covered in patience and thick skin.
  • Too much information: I don’t mean I don’t want to know what you had for lunch today (I don’t but feel free to tell me anyway, I can’t stop you), but there is a disturbing lack of concern about the private information we put out there. Where we live, who is in our family, what we owe on our mortgages– that’s all out there to find, but that doesn’t mean we have to advertise certain information. I hold things back certainly, including information I know anyone can find, but I just don;t want to invite trouble. I can always change my phone number, email address, my blog. Some things I can’t replace. I’m just afraid there will be some incident that will scare the pants off of everyone in my online groups– I just hope not.

Hmm, all this from my observation that we need to pay more attention to RSVPs– and thank-you notes, while we’re at it. What do you think about online manners?

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