Miss Manners on social media

Note: Sorry I’m posting late today. My neck of the woods got hit by an Internet gremlin, so I had to repair to a local java joint to get connected.

I blocked my first person on Facebook this week. I didn’t know the man–I blocked him because he made unpleasant comments about a news article (something to the effect that it would be good if the entire state of California got radiation-fried and burnt off the continent). I decided I didn’t want to read any more comments by him. Ever.

I gave the guy a fair hearing before blocking him, though. I read his profile carefully–the things he’d posted there made me decide that the nuking California comment wasn’t a misguided attempt at humor or a momentary  lapse in judgment. It was his actual point of view. 

That’s the interesting thing about Facebook–there’s always a real person attached to postings. Unlike other social media forums, where people lurk and flame behind pseudonyms such as RatBoytheTerrible, Facebook lets you interact with people by their real names. There’s a certain accountability, therefore, to most of the discussions. In general people’s behavior on Facebook (at least in my age and social group) reflects a certain politeness and social sensibility. It’s like attending a friend’s party–no one wants to be the boor who has too much to drink, starts ranting about politics, and has to have his conversation keys taken away.

I’m not talking about imposing censorship here. I’m talking about the benefits of peer pressure when it comes to encouraging us to behave ourselves. 

Of course, there’s a downside to having too much “real” when it comes to revealing personal identities online. Cyberstalking and privacy invasion are concerns. And activists in oppressive nations such as China and Bahrain should be able to cloak themselves in anonymity to avoid political reprisals. But in terms of online chit chat, having real identities attached to comments makes Facebook a welcome respite from the verbal cesspools that some social media forums have become.

What do you think about manners and social media? Do we need more or less? What is your personal code of conduct?

14 thoughts on “Miss Manners on social media

  1. I completely agree- and I’ve blocked a few FB “friends” on occasion too (some for being boors, others for posting their own BSP on my page without asking first). As a friend of mine once said, “The internet has spawned a lot of extremely opinionated anonymous people,” and I think that’s true. I’m not a fan of hiding being the Anonymous label unless you’re embroiled in an uprising against a despot.

  2. I have web ninjas hiding in my router. They are dispatched as needed to leap out of the offender’s printer screaming and holding a big bright blue sword above their hooded heads, thereby scaring the daylights out of the offender. Since the ninjas are purely digital holograms they vanish as soon the power capacitors fade leaving no trace of the ninja except in the terrified mind of the boor/bully/jerk.


  3. I have “Unfrieded” several people on Facebook. Funny thing is, I dont really know but a tenth of the people on my Friend list, but I’ve unfriended those that do too much advertising via private messages. As it turns out, all of those I’ve removed have been authors that I don’t really know.

  4. Heeyah indeed, Basil! Wilfred, I think the frequent-BSP offenders on FB are like the people who buttonhole people at writing conferences, trying to sell them books. They send me screaming for the elevators.

  5. I’ve unfriended people…the kind who ate paste as kids or picked their nose. My basic rule is to treat people as I want to be treated. And if I think its poor form to post signs about my upcoming book on the lawn of their home, why would that be courteous behavior to do online. It’s tacky. So click. Problem solved. Shoo! Go away.

  6. I just unfriended my first person too! I got sick of the endless weird posts/rants. Since I had no idea who she even was it wasn’t too hard but I did have a wee bit of angst about it. Not one for confrontation I worried about being sent an abusive note demanding to know why I unfriended her – thankfully that can’t happen but still I find the cyber realm much harder to navigate that the face to face world. Bring back proper etiquette like in the Edwardian era and I will probably feel more at home:)

  7. I unfriended my first FB person a few weeks ago too. I had to unfriend my own niece because she just kept posting random, vulgar stuff. Completely inappropriate. I was bummed, but just couldn’t put up with it any more.

  8. Hurts when it’s a member of the family, Chaco. I think the youngun’s don’t really want family members to interact with them on FB anyway–probably too uncool.

  9. I don’t see it as censorship, Kathryn, just the acknowledgement that freedom of speech includes the freedom to not listen.

    Just to show how little I use FB, what is “BSP”?

  10. Great post, Kathryn! I rely on the belief that everyone knows the difference between right and wrong. (A favorite quote from Kevin Spacey in the movie, KPAX.) But, when our ‘friends’ fall short of good decorum, that lovely “block” option on FB is priceless.

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