Saturday, September 11, 2010

Social Networking and Manners….Compatible or not?

I read an article in The Weekend Australian this morning by Media Editor Geoff Elliott in which he commented "It’s official – social media networks and twenty-somethings don’t mix. Not if you want to risk your professional career”.

He was relating to the furore this week caused when Olympic swimmer Stephanie Rice, 22 used a derogatory term to describe the South African rugby team in a public message on Twitter. She lost her contract with Jaguar as a consequence of her actions.

He then went on to relate that Matt Nicholls, 23 editor of a Fairfax Media-owned paper had been stood down for sending out “highly sensitive public messages on Facebook” over the death of a policeman in Sydney.

I have a Facebook account which is very tightly – I hope – controlled by me and is seen only by my friends. But recently a photo of me dancing at a wedding in the UK was posted on someone else’s site and I was alerted to it by a friend. I was happy to leave it there – it was very flattering!! – but if it wasn’t and it looked at all like it might compromise me, I would have politely asked her to take it down. As it was I removed the tag of my name. But manners are not always obvious on Facebook sites when photos are displayed by others which offend, or embarrass the photo’s subject. I’ve seen some comments that are so rude that I have laughed out loud.

Given that the world of social networking, personal or professional, is evolving faster that the etiquette which relates to it, how do we ensure a seamless blend of electronic communication and manners? Simply by remembering that consideration for others should always be paramount in our dealings with people, whether it be face-to-face, on the other end of a phone, or an internet connection. But how often when browsing blogs and Twitter are we seduced to comment to an entity which has no obvious actual persona, but appears not as a person but an account name? Manners required....or not?

A basic level of manners is what is generally taught by parents and teachers to children. What is it then that makes normally polite people assume personas which can at the very least sometimes be regarded as offensive? The immediacy and often anonymity of the instant communication is a very powerful driver. But let’s all remember that we are still dealing with people, even if their Twitter “name” looks ridiculous.

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