Social Media Etiquette - what does it mean?

Facebook, Instagram and the likes (especially Twitter) have become part of our daily vocabulary and daily reality. It is not long ago that finding a celebrity or a politician on Twitter was a reason for wonder. Not today. Celebrities of all strands (Hollywood, Washington, etc) use Twitter for self-promotion. Only one problem: when the inhabitants of the virtual world are few and far in-between, just being there makes you visible. When people of all walks of life are in Twitter and you want to be seen - you start appealing to the shock factor. 

Comments on Twitter are no longer of the type "Hey, I'm here" but of the type "Look how I stand out from everybody else". The use of strong words, shocking photos, insults and even a call to hate or a call to arms, are today not what they were even 10 years ago. If you want to be seen in the midst of the law of the jungle that Social Media has become, you need to be shocking. Therefore is no longer, for example, "I believe I was abused as a teenager" but "I was brutally raped as a child". Why? - The first phrase would not even catch your eye; the second stirs your curiosity.

When  we add to the shock value the fact that for so many people, life in the web (or the cloud) is very real (in some extreme cases more real than the physical world), standing out in Social Media becomes a social goal, even an obsession. People want to be "influencers" or increase "their followers". Again, you do that by catching their attention. If shock is what it takes - so be it!

And when some people cross all lines of decency and good taste, is when others react. Recently several public figures have been "banned" from different platforms. As a consequence, in one case, the State of Florida reacted by claiming that Facebook violated the Freedom of Speach when banning that person, thus ordering Facebook to reinstate the account. Can Facebook be held accountable by one State? by one Country? There are no laws regulating the use of Social Media platforms, so neither Facebook nor the authorities have a foot to stand on.

So we depend on Social Media "Etiquette"... the unwritten rules about what is acceptable or unacceptable to say online. The problem? Such rules are unenforceable and the appeal of celebrity is far stronger than the appeal of civility. So at the end of the day, life on Social Media is regulated by the same mechanism than life in the real world: Personal Choices. We can choose politeness and civility over shock value, we can choose respect over aggression, common sense over outrage. How do we get there? Like my gradftaher used to say "Yiddele by Yiddele" - One person at a time. None of us can control the actions of others, just our own. Changing the trend is as difficult and impossible as "Blowing in the Wind" - Let us begin.



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