Thursday, April 12, 2012

Civility Week 15 April 9, 2012

We hear a great deal about the rudeness of the rising generation. I am an oldster myself and might be
expected to take the oldsters' side, but in fact I have been far more impressed by the bad manners of parents to children than by those of children to parents. Who has not been the embarrassed  guest at family meals where the father or mother treated their grown-up offspring with an incivility which, offered to any other young people, would simply have terminated the acquaintance? Dogmatic assertions on matters which the children understand and their elders don't, ruthless interruptions, flat contradictions, ridicule of things the young take seriously sometimes of their religion insulting references to their friends, all provide an easy answer to the question "Why are they always out? Why do they like every house better than their home?" Who does not prefer civility to barbarism?”
C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves

   Good news from the cyberspace front according to Pew Research Center and the Family Online Safety Institute more teens use civility when using social media than adults do.
   Bad news :  According to the same study fewer adults use civility when using social media than most teens do.
   Wow, is this a case of  do as I say not as I do”?
   How do we act when online, either on social media such as Facebook or MySpace and in our emails to each other?  I’ve heard about some pretty nasty emails people have sent each other and have received my share of them too. (I have a long way to go on this myself, if you remember the whole reason I began this civility blog is to make myself work on this stuff more!!)
   According to Pew Research Center and the Family Online Safety Institute, sixty-nine percent of social media savvy teens think their peers treat one another with respect.  20 percent said peers are mostly unkind and 11 percent said it depends.  I’m not sure what they mean by “it depends.” I say that too because it means “it depends on the situation, whether it’s warranted or not.”  And for now I’m going to leave that “20% say peers are mostly unkind” because that percentage seems like a lot, but that’s another whole blog sometime.
   What they don’t report on is what adults using social media say about their peers. I would be interested in hearing how adults treat each other on social media. What I do know is sometimes adults I interact with on email don’t always use civility in their messages. But how do I define civility in email? Well, aside from refraining from using profanity, I also include things like using salutations, such as “Dear Lisa”, or “Hi, Lisa”  or even at least, “Lisa,” and of course instead of relying on my reply email stating who I am, I think I should sign my email, “Sincerely”,  Thank you,” etc.
   To me being civil on the  Internet means still using the same manners you would use in school, i.e. raising your hand to say something, using full sentences and not using things like, “yeah”, or “whatever” in an email in a business or education situation.  Of course I don’t mean when I talk to my kids on email or twitter I always use correct sentences! But you should at least be polite!
   According to an article by William McKenzie on the Dallas News Website, “Making sure that tweeting, Facebooking and blogging does not dumb down shared standards requires a renewal of an old-fashioned virtue:  restraint.”
   “Because”, he goes on to say, “In the olden days, which means before the ‘Net arrived, people actually wrote letters. They had time to find a stamp, lick an envelope, go to the post office – each of which gave the sender time to think whether he or she actually wanted to send the letter, particularly an angry missive.”
   Not so much today: You write, click to send and it’s gone like that. No going back, no rethinking…
And much like a written letter, much of what we write on the Internet is still alive out in cyberspace, possibly to millions of readers.
Whoa, I don’t know about you, but I don’t want everyone in the world to know I was upset at someone else . It’s bad enough the stuff people can find out on cyberspace about each of us now!
   So, rethinking our civility while using the Internet, no matter whether it’s tweeting or emailing or blogging even cannot go without rechecking ourselves. Just how harsh did that sound? Can someone take that in a way I didn’t mean it?
   I don’t mean we have to second guess everything we write, but what if we pressed a mental pause button, just as if we were handwriting a letter, addressing the envelope, finding a stamp and going to the mailbox all in an effort to vent a frustration, complain about something, or talk about someone else?  What if we give ourselves some “pause and reflect time”?  We may find we shouldn’t send that tweet, email or blogging thought.
   It’s something to think about and obviously people are even writing news about it.  We can all start a new trend ourselves by being old fashioned and pausing to reflect.  Not everything in the Internet world has to be “Now or never, life or death.” 
   So would you kindly excuse me now? I would greatly like to go back to reread this blog and pause for some reflection before I press the “publish” button!
Thank you so very kindly!

Lisa Simmons

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