I’ve noticed a number of posts, by well respected friends, around the topic of online etiquette. The positive power that is Peg Fitzpatrick wrote a considered post about the McNastys out there; you know, those folks spoiling for a tussle. My loving friend, Lynn Ponder, weighed in with her thoughts on thoughtfulness in her post about Virtual Etiquette. The eloquent Dabney Porte guides to best practices on social media in her Tuesday night Twitter chat #SMManners. I have seen my friend, Dan Newman, consistently display empathy and integrity in his exchanges with detractors.
That dear heart, Jessica Northey, social media celebrity, has only ever looked down on someone because she is helping them up and always shares her knowledge and enthusiasm. Mack Collier is the epitome of diplomacy ~ he gets a few McNastys on #BlogChat and always respectfully ‘agrees to disagree’. These folks, and far too many others to mention here, spread and share positivity.
There is certainly no dearth of content around how to behave on social media. Apparently, these ~ and other missives about manners ~ are necessities. My question is … Why?
According to Digital Buzz, for both Facebook and Twitter, the largest percentage of users are in college or have graduated, are aged 26-44, and earn money (that is to say, they hold jobs. They are employed. So, we can stipulate that they must ~ at some level ~ communicate and engage with other people). Educated, employed, and post-adolescent, why the need to elucidate on etiquette?
Perhaps it’s thanks to the ‘wall’ inherent in this virtual playground allowing for reduced inhibitions. When out in the real world ~ be it a social situation or a conference meeting ~ I wager that most would defer to tact and diplomacy. Should someone offend, you would probably move along to find a new conversation. Were another to offer an insight with which you disagree? I suspect that, standing next to the punch bowl, you would engage in lively, yet polite, banter. The issue with social media is the medium, as pointed out by many of my insightful friends. There is no capacity for subtly, no room for sarcasm (saving the hashtag ‘#sarcasm’ but … meh), emoticons are served liberally with the hope of illuminating understanding, and, with some exceptions, we really don’t ‘know’ each other at all.
Everyone has differing opinions and contrasting perspectives. That’s what makes life amusing. You can be adamant about your method of dog-training but what I did worked for me. If you prefer to travel by air, it doesn’t negate my fondness for the train. Toe-MAY-toe versus Toe-Mahh-toe? Let’s talk about our feelings on that! There is a difference between an argument and contradiction …
Anyone who knows me knows that I am not a cynic. I honour each person I meet, online and off, with the benefit of believing in their goodness and their capacity to contribute something to my knowledge, understanding, and, ultimately, to my life. If they betray that benefit, I move on. Not everyone you meet is going to be ‘nice’ nor is going to share your sensibilities, passions, or perspectives. Some people will be mean ~ personally disparaging, insulting, and abasing. The most gracious thing you can do for yourself is to move on … there is no rule that you have to play with them. Besides, the best tutelage comes from leading by example. Just like in real life, surround yourself with people who add value to your life and to whose lives you, too, contribute.
Engaging in intelligent discourse, regardless of viewpoint, is conversation. If you’re a ‘brand’, constructive criticism can be a gift and help drive improvement. If you’re a person, you may learn something ~ and perhaps teach something, too. The operative word is ‘constructive’ ~ anything else is mud-slinging and rarely involves intelligence.
Kindness isn’t weakness; empathy doesn’t imply acquiescence.
So what is the ROI of ‘Nice’? By my estimation and experience ~ one erg of kindness expended gains mega-ergs in return. Besides, I really rock the glasses.
Do you let Social Media Monsters get under your skin? How do you rise above?