Despite society in general becoming seemingly more rude on a near daily basis, simple etiquette retains a position of importance in the social media. As many of us are already aware, the main focus of the social media is upon conversation building. Indeed, for anyone that has read Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff's fantastic 2008 book Groundswell, the realization that conversation is as much about 'listening' as it is 'speaking' is obvious. Over the past few months, I have noticed that whilst many people involved in the social media are perfectly able to talk, it is often their capacity to listen that is sub par.
The Development of Opinion:
One of the many benefits afforded by the social media concerns the provision of an electronic voice to anyone with an opinion. Whilst this has on occasion been employed maliciously to encourage damage to either image or reputation, it has also provided a platform from which users can interestingly convey their thoughts on a plethora of diverse subject matters. The introduction of the various social media platforms has provided users with an opportunity to converse with other interested parties. Unlike the static 'Web 1.0' offerings which differed little from the one directional traditional media, the instruments of what has come to be known as 'Web 2.0' introduced a dynamic element to the mix. Two way conversations became the norm.
Each of the social platforms facilitated conversation in their own way. Whilst blogs allowed readers to comment on posts of particular interest, content aggregation sites such as Digg encouraged the submission and discussion of content deemed to be of interest. More recently, social bookmarking sites, including my personal favourite StumbleUpon, have encouraged users to tag and review the web. Whilst each of these techniques has created an environment conducive to discussion, the opinions being conveyed have, on occasion, been where said ‘discussion’ ends. The provision of an electronic voice appears to have challenged our abilities to listen.
Learning to Listen (again):
Despite the ease with which content can be created online, simple etiquette still dictates that we should be equally open to the thoughts of others; we must listen as much as we talk. We should remain open to the opinions of others; even if we disagree. Whilst I am not suggesting that users must necessarily submit to the opinions of others, by listening to contrary points of view debate can be instigated and insight gleaned. And hey, that’s what so great about the social media; there’s no right or wrong answer.
It is only through conversation and discussion that we can extend our knowledge of a subject about which we all clearly feel passionate. By simply broadcasting our message instead of listening to the insights of others, we are creating a social media reminiscent of the old media; conversations will become one directional, and the value thereof will be reduced to nil.
Let’s introduce etiquette back into the social media.