Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Proposals for Etiquette on Social Media

When the telephone was first invented there was some discussion in society about the indecency of answering the phone in a nightgown/pajamas.  In this case, sensible mores (being appropriately dressed for the occasion) ran up against new technology and there were unreasonable expectations during a reasonable adjustment period.

So too, social media has penetrated into almost every aspect of our lives and so it now makes more sense to discuss proposed rules.  These are "rules" proposed in the spirit of Bill Maher's "New Rules," i.e. a point of view informing an approach.

1.  Don't discuss religion, politics, or sex on your wall.  You will always have at least one hot-blooded friend, who is usually ignorant, who will destroy any semblance of an objective discussion you want to have.  Should you, as I do, wish to hear the thoughts of your friends on the topic du jour, invite them to a secret fb group where they can share their thoughts safe from the keyboards of trolls.

2.  Be sparing in your mention of medical conditions, family issues, or your own personal state of mind.  Those details would not have been live-cast to the world in times past, with good reason.  Those things were (and still are!) intensely private and as such, should be kept that way.  On the flip side, facebook has become a great way to share details with your larger social network who would not normally have gotten a phone call from you (engagements, sonogram photos, etc.).  For those of us with notions of politesse, a simple ask for "thoughts and prayers" on a particular issue will be all the info we need.  Those in the know in your life won't have found out about vital (and private) things on facebook.

3.  Watch your language, photography, and things you share.  Yes, facebook is made up of your "friends" but some are elderly and others are very young, and just as in real life we may act or speak differently around children or the elderly, for various sensible reasons, so too should we be mindful and sensitive while on the social networks.

4.  Don't complain about privacy issues or changes to a service you don't pay for.  This incredibly odd entitlement mentality that people think everything should be delivered to them, for free, no less, has at its heart a simple lack of gratitude.  Platforms like facebook pay to host your photos, videos, and other random thoughts.  If they want to tinker and change things you're just going to have to accept that you are part of an ongoing experiment that also happens to be a multi-billion dollar multinational publicly-traded organization.

5.  Don't feel like you have to accept every friend request or that you can't defriend people.  So you had one college class with a person and walked with them at graduation.  You haven't said one word to each other since - not even to wish him/her a happy birthday.  Why are they even part of your extended social network?  They might as well not be.  From time to time take the opportunity to trim your friend tree so it stays healthy.

6.  Try to keep business stuff off your personal page.  There are some occasions which are exceptions - you or a friend/family member launching a new business and you want to give it a bit of a push - but most times it's not professional and might make your friends feel like they're getting pitched all the time, which is not what facebook is about.  Also, don't resent it if your friends don't "like" your company or page.  Maybe they don't want yet another thing in their news feed, no matter how much they care about you.

A society that is ever more casual, which uses "whatever works" as its motto, may have no care for such things as etiquette, which is part of the democracy of the dead and as with many traditions, makes life more bearable and meaningful.  This piece is addressed to those who, indeed, can be bothered.

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