SHARE AND SHARE ALIKE
I was talking with a friend recently about everything that’s wrong with social networking today. I think it’s great that folks seem to have embraced the idea of technology. Just a few years ago, I would never have dreamed of my mother sharing pictures of her grandchildren on Facebook. Or the Star’s Royals beat writer, Bob Dutton, interacting with fans of the team on Twitter–most of whom are half his age.
These incredible platforms connect old college roommates, allow politicians to talk with their constituents and pass along messages of hope and peace and love every day. One of my friends is very sick with cancer and she has said how much the messages of support and hope mean to her in her struggle.
This openness and proclivity toward sharing comes with a price. In addition to reconnecting with an old friend so you can share recipes for oatmeal raisin cookies, it also means that the moron you sat behind in 8th grade biology wants to tell you about his a-hole girlfriend. Or that co-worker from a job you had five years ago can talk to you about how Obama was born in Switzerland and how the CIA is coming after your guns. Or how the guy that runs the pizza parlor that you like spams you every two hours to come down for a slice.
Everyone has gotten so used to sharing. But we haven’t yet developed that internal mute button that you’d typically use in other social situations. In fact, rather than muting our comments, we seem to feel empowered to amplify them. If you were at a Starbucks with 20 folks there, would you just get up and ask everyone to look at this rash on your inner thigh? Well, why is it that I saw that post last Friday on Facebook?
I once saw a mother carry out a full-on domestic argument with her 17-year-old daughter–completely in the open–on Facebook. While I was grabbing popcorn and watching each status update, a part of me did feel really bad for them.
If you were at a car dealership, looking to buy a car, would you expect to hear a 15-minute monologue from the salesman about why socialized medicine is the wave of the future? So why put it on your Twitter?
Listen, I get it. This is new for many of us. Digital communication is different than physical interaction with people. It’s much more anonymous and impersonal. Except it’s not. It’s very personal–but people forget that.
A fair rule of thumb I think we all could go by is to use the same manners and tone as you would at a cocktail party. This assumes you’re at a normal cocktail party and not one of the I Hate Abortion cocktail party. There, I guess your tone would be different.
The golden rule certainly applies on social networking, just as it does in life. Status Update to others as you would want Status Updated to you.
(Chris Kamler is active on Twitter, where he is known as @TheFakeNed. He hosts a baseball-themed radio show each Wednesdays at 4 p.m. on ESPN 1510 AM. Reach him through his web site, ramblingmorons.com)