Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Thoughts On Social Media II: Social Etiquette In Virtual Time

The incident reported here (warning - pretty odd, and scary, right-wing place) and commented upon by me here has left me wondering. Has the arrival of social media created new rules of social etiquette? How "social" are updates on Facebook (FB), and do the usual rules of social interaction apply?

While I was critical of this person's approach to the incident in question, the incident raises interesting questions that, given second and even third thoughts, should be addressed. Since FB is a public forum, how do we raise concerns regarding such things as the use of profanity? How do we voice our objections, if we do, to the presence of words, ideas, opinions, with which we disagree, or that we find offensive?

Part of my objection to the way the particular situation was handled was the aftermath; this gentleman's niece "unfriended" him, and quite possibly there has been damage to the relationship. It might be thought this is a bit of an overreaction to the incident, yet it also raises the question of what one's moral priorities are, and how we fit our various moral concerns in to our ethical calculus.

Yet, there is a certain legitimacy to the claim that the public use of profanity, if found objectionable, can rightly be addressed publicly, as well. Of course, tact and some sense of proportion are a necessary part of any social interaction; publicly saying a relative has the public manners of "a cheap whore" might not heal the hurt caused by a public scolding.

If FB is not just something "out there", but indeed real connections with real people, then considerations of others' feelings, including the public use of profanity, and how objections to their presence are questions that need to be thought through. I have no answer, although my own approach is one that makes certain compromises in an attempt to respect the thoughts and feelings of the many different people who might read my updates and the comments upon them.

Virtual Tin Cup

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