On Facebook and the Death of Etiquette

Let’s face it.  Etiquette is a lost art.  Forget “interruption marketing” for a minute and think about how people interact on a regular basis.  New technologies change that behavior as people seek to leverage the convenience they provide.

  • When the phone was invented, an etiquette had to evolve on how to greet a new call, what’s an appropriate time to call, how to converse without interruption.  (Lots of room to improve here still – I can’t understand why politicians don’t have to follow the “do not call” list rules, but that’s another story).
  • Email etiquette arguably doesn’t exist – in a business context, companies have a culture around when people turn to email and when they don’t.  Email between friends and family has a broad range of what’s “socially acceptable,” but over time people at least develop a sense of when people will reply and why.
  • Two years ago, no way I’d tell you that it would be acceptable to converse via text message/SMS with grandparents.  Same with instant messaging.

In each of these small examples, the communication is mostly 1:1.  Email can be broadcast 1:many, but it’s deliberate who the communication goes to – you select email addresses to include.  Enter the world of Facebook, where the communication paradigm is different.  We have 1:many as the default – post once and share with many, who consume the content (status updates, photos, videos, links) at their leisure.  Forget that most people don’t have a common understanding of what they see in the News Feed and why.   The barrier to communication is low – it’s easy to share a picture or post given so many ways to share, from mobile to desktop.

Sometimes people forget that the communication medium isn’t important – the content of the message is, along with the dynamic.  Is it something that should be shared 1:1 or OK to share 1:many?   Making that choice with the context to understand the medium is crucial in relationship building – for businesses or individuals.

I recently asked some folks on Twitter and Facebook about etiquette, and heard many bizarre stories.  From the unexpected sonogram photo to first hearing of a family death, people are choosing Facebook for the wrong type of communication at the wrong time.   Have an example to share?  Do you thing Facebook etiquette is a lost art or a lost cause?

Photo credit: fdmount via flickr

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  • Anonymous

    I’m connected to a woman who is 20, and it seems that in that age group, posting on people’s walls and having entire conversations 1:1 is popular with. I don’t understand it! If it’s a bunch of people, ok. But 1:1 conversation to me (other than 1 comment) should be handled privately. But that’s just me :-)

    • http://adamhcohen.com adamcohen

      I hear you. There is a difference when they know the conversation can be “overheard,” versus just posting an important communication that probably should have started with some private communications. Just had it happen to me twice in the last couple of months – I won’t call out the offender but it’s clear to me some may not think ahead on how they manage communications with that one to many dynamic.

  • http://trueconfessions.wordpress.com Ellen G

    Several colleagues have taken to FB to announce divorces and separations. Considering that in these cases both the husband and wife work with the company, it’s led to more than a few awkward moments.

    • http://adamhcohen.com adamcohen

      Ouch. I have a friend who found out about a death in the family through Facebook. Its amazing that people may not take time to think before posting.

  • http://sankhyatantra.blogspot.com Vijay Kaundal

    Well I posted a comment on a friend’s wallpost saying that he had misstated things and I essentially didn’t agree with what he said. I believe he understood since he is a long time friend but somebody else who was added to his friend list and completely unknown to me almost attacked me with the harshest and rudest language I had heard in a long time. That day onwards I decided not to comment on anybody’s post if I was in disagreement :)

  • http://ariwriter.com Ari Herzog
    • http://adamhcohen.com adamcohen

      Thanks Ari. There are a lot of flavors of etiquette in social media that remained undefined.

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  • http://www.enterdialogue.com Tyson Goodridge

    Adam, nice post. Agree that there is a distinct lack of manners/etiquette on Facebook. To Rachel’s point, I think the younger generation simply doesn’t have the experience and understanding of the true value of etiquette. Makes me think of Emily Post and Ms. Manners. One application that’s making an interesting move here is Crane BlueBook as they are trying to encourage the use of good etiquette with a playful application applauding people on good etiquette and “nudging” them a bit on bad etiquette. Valuable tool? we shall see. (http://apps.facebook.com/cranebluebook/?ref=ts). On another side note, I came across this new marketing effort by a paper company called Domtar- their tagline? “Paper Because” (http://www.paperbecause.com/) I like this move- still underscores the value of the written word…

    • http://adamhcohen.com adamcohen

      Tyson, I’m very delinquent on replying to comments here – but thanks for pointing our Crane’s app – Crane is a Rosetta client and this was a project we developed for them, as a branding effort associated with the original Blue Book. We hope folks have fun with it but clearly there are lots of ways to interpret etiquette here. Thanks again.

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  • http://www.linkedin.com/in/internetmarketingnickstamoulis Nick Stamoulis

    I still go back to email etiquette, I can’t stand improper email etiquette, starting off an email with a “Hi___, and ending it with a Thank You, what has happened to that…definitely a peeve of mine.

  • http://www.theinternettimemachine.com Vee Sweeney

    So glad you covered this! There are so many bizarre stories out there and it makes me quite disappointed that people will lower themselves to this unacceptable practice. One thing that stands out to me, especially on Facebook is personal issues and fights between people. What person thinks it is acceptable to name call, insult or degrade someone on Facebook? What person thinks it is ok to tell the rest of the world private and personal matters? And last, there is the taking the message out of context. Many serious posts are misconstrued as joking and vice versa. This causes battles between friends and family that never would have existed if it were not for social media.