People Are Less Polite on Social Media

Although a slight departure from the norm, this one does relate back to earlier posts such as “Why You Should Engage Your Brain at all Times“, “Social Media – Employers and Social Snooping” and “Getting into Hot Water with Social media and offensive comments

The name Paris Brown has become well known, but for all the wrong reasons. For those that don’t know it (really?), she is (or rather was) Britain’s first youth police commissioner who resigned shortly after being appointed when certain violent, racist and anti-gay comments posted on her Twitter account came to light – ooops.

She said she was resigning because she had fallen into the “trap of behaving with bravado on social networking sites.”

But why do some people find it acceptable to say things on social media that they wouldn’t ordinarily say to people face to face?

According to an article in The Drum, a recent survey showed that 88% of respondents believed that people are less polite on social media than in person and 19% had reduced in-person contact with someone because of something they said online. It also found that the main culprits for having “emotionally charged” conversations online were the young rather than ‘baby boomers’.

So are social media platforms the problem?

It could be argued that they are because they allow instant channels to vent frustrations that would otherwise remain behind tight lips. With a flourish of fingers a comment can be made and sent out into the online social world without any thought about how it may affect other people. Whereas in a face to face situation people are likely to be more reserved and (if they do vent their frustrations) will do it privately, or at least without the likelihood of several hundred or thousand friends and followers witnessing it.

It would appear therefore that education is called for to make people stop and think before they post or tweet. The author of the report, Joseph Grenny, offers 5 tips for communicating both candidly and respectfully on social media.

1. Check your motives

Social media hasn’t only changed the way we communicate, it has also modified our motives.

Think about why you use social media – is it to get lots of ‘likes’, provoke controversy or are you looking to have healthy dialogues with people?

2. Replace hot words

If you want to make a point rather than score points, look at what you’ve written and replace “hot” words that may provoke offence with words that will help others understand your position. For example don’t use “this is idiotic” when you could simply say “I disagree because…”

3. Pause

Never post a comment or tweet in the heat of the moment. Emotionally charged writing will only end in tears. Give yourself time to calm down before writing anything.

4. Agree before disagreeing

We are all different so, at one time or another, are going to disagree with each other. Find your common ground first before wading into an argument. According to Grenny, arguers agree on 80% of the topic, but create a false sense of conflict when they spend all their time arguing over the other 20%.

5. Trust your gut

When you read a response to your post and you feel the conversation is getting too emotional for an online exchange – stop because you’re right. That’s the time to meet up and talk about it face to face.

Over to you

What are your thoughts on this?

Is social media to blame or do you think it’s youth culture?

Leave a comment below, I’d love to hear from you.


Author: Sally Ormond, Copywriter, blogger, tweeter (@sallyormond)

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#1 A Smith on 04.19.13 at 5:54 pm

I think the biggest problem with any online communication is that you lose tone and context. If you speak to somebody face to face, they can tell if you’re being sarcastic. But once a post is taken out of context, it can easily grow into a huge, unnecessary mess of misunderstanding.

Great tips – thanks for sharing!

#2 admin on 04.22.13 at 7:45 am

No worries – thanks for your comment.

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