Social Media is NOT a Relationship Shortcut

This is the first of many posts I have been researching and drafting about etiquette, privacy and how we are maintaining our digital mirror (NOT to be confused with the dreaded personal brand).

Online interaction through a variety of social media channels has introduced me to new faces, points of view and opportunities. Twitter is one of many vehicles I can forge new conversations and acquaintances, but I have never treated social media as my sole resource for contact with the human race. Just because I follow someone does not make me their friend. Or because I have an interesting dialog with another person on a blog or Facebook, we are not instantaneous buddies.

However, the friends versus followers debate is an ongoing discussion and not what I intend to focus on in this post…

What I do want to ask is this: When did it become socially acceptable to leave etiquette behind at the proverbial virtual door?

Having instantaneous contact with someone does not exempt you from using the two simplest (yet, hardest to remember) words, please and thank you.

As a community manager, it is obviously my job to interact with people. It is assumed that I should be understanding, sensitive, patient, a good listener and provide exemplary due diligence to service my community. I came into the community manager position through the public relations cone. Contrary to popular belief, this career path was chosen not because I was a “people person,” but enjoyed communications strategy and being out of the lime light.

Please do not misunderstand this post to be a rant or to call out anyone in particular. I am just curious why we treat (myself included) those people who are providing a customer service as if they do not deserve the nurturing offline relationships require. We demand answers be immediate, judge first and ask questions later, then demand their knowledge be given for free. Nowhere in any of the community building or maintenance advice is it addressed how the community should treat a community manager.

So, let’s flip the discussion.

Is netiquette lost? Can it be taught? Is it wrong for an online community manager to request the same respect from others that is being demanded of them?

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  • Chris Bailey

    I believe we have a part to play in this etiquette game. Same as in offline relationships, we show people how we want to be treated by our own actions. If we’re less than impressed with someone’s rudeness or inability to show common courtesy, it’s our job to let them know their behavior is unacceptable.
    As we navigate this sort of new world of online social networks, we have to reset some of the rules and establish new norms. Otherwise, we will be lost.

  • DJ Waldow

    Lauren – As I mentioned via Twitter, I’m not sure that netiquette can be taught. Then again, I’m not sure straight up etiquette can be taught either. I mean, yeah, of course children can learn this growing up. I’m talking about adults. One thing I learned when I “became an adult” is that just because you are old enough to drink or rent a car of have children (gasp!) does not mean you automatically have common sense. Adults do dumb things all of the time. See Tiger Woods or many US politicians. I mean, can you teach them to be smarter about personal decisions? I’m not sure, but I don’t think so.
    Crap. Does this mean I’m becoming cynical? I hope not. I do have tremendous faith in humans. You know me. I love people. I really do. However, the more dumb choices I see people making…
    So, how does this tie to netiqutte? I don’t think that humans with common sense all of the sudden forget it because we now friend & follow people. I believe that the same people that have terrible offline social skills are likely to also suck online and vice versa.
    Did I miss your point of this post or did my ramble make sense?
    DJ Waldow
    Director of Community, Blue Sky Factory

  • Lauren Vargas

    Resetting the rules and establishing new norms is exactly what I will begin addressing when I explore social media (specifically comm industry and cmty mgr position) from the perspective of Alice and the Looking Glass.
    Thank you, as always, for your optimism and feedback! You are not rambling and make sense, but I do think we sometimes forget common sense online a bit more easily or become a too relaxed no matter what we have been taught or is our instinct.

  • renaissance costume

    I also believe that etiquette should not be forgotten even if we are on the virtual world. Hey, its still another “person” we are talking to, not a computer.

  • Alisonmichalk

    Hi Lauren, I’ve been meaning to reply since reading this a few weeks back. I can certainly relate having been at receiving end of questionable behavior in my time as a Community Manager.
    In practicing my “zen skin” I remind myself that sometimes this behavior is a by-product of a communtiy that has a very strong sense of ownership. Ergo they don’t take kindly to being ‘reprimanded’ or even left out. Whatever the circumstance may be, they sometimes view the CM in a different light to members.
    Of course this doesn’t negate the need for netiquette but it does help to think it may be a result of a very robust & mostly healthy community?
    I find it very rare that these individuals will act the same when engaged in a one-on-one dialogue. It is then they accept you are in fact human too.
    I do understand where you are coming from however!