Do we need a social netiquette upgrade?
As children we learn not to speak with our mouths full or accept sweets from dubious looking strangers lurking near the school gates. As adults we learn to feign interest in our grandparents’ 327th Kenyan slide show and lie effectively when faced with awkward questions. “Do you think he dumped me because I was too clingy?” asks the night goggle wearing acquaintance who religiously monitors her boyfriend’s phone calls. “Of course not,” you reply automatically (secretly wondering how the mayor of crazy town managed to avoid a restraining order).
Engrained into our psyche from a young age, this universal social etiquette worked very effectively until social media hit the scene. But through a whirlwind of grammatically incoherent ramblings, wedding announcements and cancer eradicating ‘like’ buttons, our mode of communication has been completely transformed. Initially I assumed the Facebook fad would be as short lived as the 1997 Tamagotchi craze. But whilst cyber pets were left to languish in piles of their own excrement, online sharing sites grew faster than Samantha Brick collects train tickets from admiring strangers. Sometimes amusing, sometimes irritating and often leaving you unable to fathom the idiocy of the human race, they’re definitely here for the long-haul.
Free from the constraints of traditional social situations and shielded by a veil of anonymity, people feel compelled to share a wealth of private information online. Recently fallen madly in love? Instead of quietly riding the marshmallow cloud of joy like we’ve done for the past five centuries, it’s now customary to declare your devotion in cyber space. Despite the fact most of us haven’t dedicated a song to a crush since the days of shiny Pilot crop tops and Impulse body sprays, social networking actively encourages us to behave like acid tripping Disney characters. And quite frankly, unless you’re young enough to drink Barcardi Breezers without thinking “this tastes like refrigerated sick”, such Hallmark inspired updates aren’t acceptable. Even the gritty details of people’s sex lives don’t remain private anymore. Woken up with morning glory? Girlfriend agreed to deviate from missionary with the banana shaped sex toy you acquired in the Ann Summers BOGOF sale? Congratulations. Please. Stop. Scaring. Sharing.
Perhaps more offensive than the ‘love you baby xxx’ emoticon addicts are the ‘break up drama queens’. “CAN’T BELIEVE YOU GIVE EVERYTHING TO ONE PERSON AND THEY JUST SCREW YOU OVER. YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE.” Of course they do. There’s a man in Outer Mongolia with limited internet connectivity who knows who they are. But there’s no need to share your emotional breakdown with the random chick you met in a festival toilet queue three years ago. Just have a little cry, drink two bottles of wine and make phone calls you’ll regret like EVERYBODY ELSE.
In addition to the over sharers, the wildly inappropriate and the love birds, these websites have become a place to vent hatred and anger. Describing views as all sorts of profanities, even the greatest literary minds now deem it acceptable to level their criticism through a series of expletive packed 140 character rants. The chat show chair throwing of the 21st century, everyone from Grace Dent to Giles Coren has sharpened their claws and jumped headfirst into a high profile Twitter spat. Although an orchestrated row can boost followers, most public fights make all parties involved look like a pair of sugar hyped kids wrestling over the last bowl of strawberry jelly at a birthday party. So assuming you wouldn’t hurl a torrent of sweary abuse at a colleague who disagrees with your political views, why do it to strangers on Twitter?
Everyone knows social networking platforms are relentlessly narcissistic. From smug Facebook location updates to announcing every achievement, when it comes to the virtual world, some of us missed the modesty memo. And whilst self promotion is a necessary evil, if you hit the retweet button every time someone compliments your blog/song/hair/fact you can balance a spoon on your nose, you might as well self style your living room into a personal shrine. Unless you’re desperate to alienate all your followers, I suggest you pop your humility hat back on and keep the showing off to a minimum.
Truth be told we’re all guilty of the occasional social media faux pas. But if you’ve got friends who regularly sing their own praises, post snogging snaps or share the kind of information usually reserved for a qualified psychotherapist, I feel for you. Just be eternally grateful for the ‘hide’, ‘block’, and ‘unfollow’ buttons.Tagged in: facebook, social etiquette, Social media, social netiquette, social networking, twitter
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