Saturday, April 30, 2016

Netiquette - To FB or not to FB

A few decades from now, humans will called Social Networking conversations as the "Web of Babble". Millenniums of social evolution, perhaps helped us learn social etiquette when communicating in person. Add to it actions such as smiling, shaking hands, observing the other persons facial responses etc which for the most part were non-verbal. Then came writing to each other and we learned the conventions of writing to each other. Then we learned newer devices - telegrams, telephone, cell phone and even televised speeches.

True we had disagreements in person, in writing and over the phone; true wars were fought over words and people were controlled from speaking and still are in some places; and deals were made over all these formats. Families were united and friendships were made. How many of us remember phone bills from talking to friends in the 90's.

Fast forward to today; we are fortunate to have a plethora of communication devices. We have telephony that is so cheap and speech quality that is so good. We also have social networking. We freely talk to strangers and unlike in a dinner party, when we shake hands, make eye contact, listen and make a call on who we are going converse with; we now can comment on thread of thought from someone. We tend to make a call on someone and make impressions in our minds; and I am wondering if brain scans while actively participating in Facebook conversations will lead to findings on how these impressions are made and perhaps remembered the next time we discuss with the same stranger!

We  humans are now dealing with a web of life; of out of network people making connections over the internet. We are making "friends" in minutes and disagreeing freely over a comment. We tend to like comments and even tend to form patterns of likes! We now can love or wow a post on Facebook; which is an evolution in emoting beyond emoticons.

We are evolving but time is revolving fast. We have a barrage of information we process with microsecond responses. Perhaps, in years from now we will have Etiquettes defined for social networking. Perhaps, we can apply some of our normal communication modes to Facebook conversations to make public participation more useful.

In the book Crucial Conversations, the authors recommend finding ways to keep a conversation safe. If a conversation is not safe, people either tend to be quiet (flight) or act out in violence (fight). But if the goal is to increase the collective pool of knowledge, a conversation can be meaningful even in case of disagreement if the first goal is keep the conversation safe for the participants. Which means, mental visualization that we are in a Starbucks in a line. The person next to us spills some coffee while picking it up and even if we are in the midst of an intense discussion, we instinctively might say, "Are you ok"? We might say, "You first" to the person who entered the line at the same time.

How do we make online conversations effective?  Not necessarily in a, "I am going to say only pleasing things" way but in a "I am going to have a meaningful conversation".

Perhaps, we can take advantage of the fact that we cannot talk over each in FB and read the words carefully. Then perhaps we can apply a non-verbal filter i.e. do not read the words with a set script in mind but read it like you would read a new book! Then we could respond to each post in an effective way. We can respond with our read on the book based on a fresh perspective.

Sure, we will have disagreements. What's fun in life if each of us was a clone of each other. What's fun in life to have a bunch of "Yes" people around us. It will be like playing Chess with yourself. You know all the moves, but you can never win and it gets boring real quick.

I do not have all the answers and I think each of us can and will find our own answers. Next time we read that comment that we want to go ballistic on, we could stop, take a deep breath and say, "What do I really want in this conversation?".

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