Have you ever caught your lunch date surreptitiously texting under the table while pretending to be enthralled by your conversation?Or posted a favourite photo from a party only to have someone you donât even know mock you, calling you fat and ugly? Youâre not alone. Three out of five people who use social media say at least a few times a month someone is rude to them. And the rudeness doesnât stop online. Technology was blamed by more than 80 per cent of people surveyed by Insights West as the cause of our growing incivility, making it the No. 2 reason (behind parents not teaching their kids manners) that people think we are becoming less civil to each other.
âThe No. 1 issue, at 93 per cent, is parents failing to teach their children properly and the second is technology,â said Mario Canseco, vice-president, public affairs at Insights West.
âWhen we didnât have this type of technology, we seemed to get along much better,â he said. âWe were probably saying good morning to the guy at the coffee shop.â
Instead weâre hidden behind our cellphones and other gadgets, tweeting, posting, texting and SnapChatting with our virtual friends while ignoring the world around us. Or worse â letting the door slam in their face.
And when weâre not face-to-face, there is much lost in our interactions.
Dr. Joti Samra, an adjunct professor in psychology at Simon Fraser University and a clinical psychologist with a private practice in Yaletown, said the predominant component of our communication is non-verbal. It could be the tone of our voice, body posture, or other signals that can only be picked up when we are talking, not texting, tweeting or interacting online.
âWhen weâre limited to words, we lose the non-verbal component,â said Samra. âAnd often messaging gets lost in translation.â
Added to that is the speed and brevity of texts and online posts.
âIn the Twitter age you are communicating a message in 140 characters,â said Samra. âWe are losing the art of conversation, weâre learning to communicate in very short sound bites.â
And Samra said we can be so engaged with our online world that we ignore the people we are with in the real world.
âHow often do you see four people sitting in a restaurant and all four are on their phones?â she said.
âAll of these factors can contribute to incivility and disrespect.â
And the stats canât be blamed on old folks just not understanding the digital age.
While 85 per cent of people aged 55 and over blame technology for our bad manners, 82 per cent of those ages 18 to 34 say the same and 86 per cent of those aged 35 to 54 point to technology as a culprit.
When it comes to online incivility, younger people seem to suffer most.
Some 70 per cent of those aged 18 to 34 said someone has written rude posts on their Facebook wall, posted nasty tweets or otherwise been rude online. That drops to 60 per cent among those aged 34 to 55 and among the 55-plus set who are on social media, only 39 per cent say they have been noticed people being rude to them online.
At 16, Erinne Paisley has been on Facebook for three years, she uses Instagram, has a Twitter and a Tumblr account. She says social media doesnât cause rudeness but makes it easier to be rude.
âOn social media there is the disconnect issue. When youâre on social media youâre not saying something to a personâs face, so itâs a lot easier to be rude.
âI donât think we can blame social media for peopleâs rudeness. Itâs not like those thoughts are created from social media but they are voiced through social media, which gives an easier platform to voice those thoughts.â
Paisley said it also intensifies bullying, whether through school cliques or people launching online attacks against public figures and others they donât even know.
Is social media making us rude? Or just giving us a forum to show our true colours?
Simon Fraser University communication professor Peter Chow-White suggests the latter.
âSome people like to be a jerk. I bet you 10 bucks people who are jerks online are jerks in real life,â he said. âIt says more about the personality than it does about the communication itself.â
Chow-White said he is still shocked at just how racist, sexist and homophobic online communication still is. Rather than being separate from the way people behave in real life, online behaviour only reflects attitudes that are now more hidden. While it may be risky for someone to launch an offensive rant on a crowded bus, the risk is much lower in the online environment where you can be anonymous, he pointed out.
âItâs good theyâre not comfortable to do that in public anymore, but it has not gone away â it has just gone underground,â said Chow-White.
âTechnology doesnât cause anything,â he said. âItâs not an actor in society, it doesnât have its own will, its own mind or anything like that. We do things with technology, it augments our activities.
âDoes it give more avenues for people to express meanness? Absolutely. You go to the YouTube comments, go to all the comment pages and this is where all the sexist, the racist, the nasty people come out and they hide behind anonymous identities.â
The YouTube comments section, known for being an online cesspool of the darkest, most offensive rants, is undergoing a cleanup. YouTube has announced a number of changes to its comments, including new tools to allow video creators to moderate comments and select who can see the comments.
Peopleâs perception that technology and social media are eroding our civility also reflects the fact that the technological changes are still fairly new to us, according to Chow-White.
âTechnology and social media are still a source of anxiety for people,â he said. âThe Internet and social media especially havenât quite faded to the background. We donât have these conversations about peopleâs behaviour on telephones.â
Kris Krug, a Vancouver photographer and longtime digerati who built his first website in 1995, echoes Chow-Whiteâs contention that the online world only reflects our real world thoughts and behaviour.
âI donât think the technology changes core human nature,â he said.
The online world also lacks the nuances that you get in face-to-face conversations, said Krug.
âTry being sarcastic, it doesnât carry well online,â he said. âItâs lacking context and the non-verbal cues.â
Krug said the online world tended to be a more civil place back in the day when it required particular skills to engage online.
âThe Internet has reduced the barrier to entry on many things, it has lowered the barriers to entry for being rude to people, or leaving your rudeness there for the world to see. There is also definitely a feeding frenzy effect.â
American Caitlin Seida was a victim of that frenzy when a Halloween photo she posted on her Facebook page went viral. Writing about the experience recently on Salon.com in a story headlined âMy embarrassing picture went viral,â Seida wrote about how a photo of her dressed up as Lara Croft: Tomb Raider was lifted from her Facebook page and reposted on numerous social media sites.
âSo I laughed it all off at first â but then, I read the comments,â wrote Seida, who said her struggles with polycystic ovarian syndrome and a failing thyroid gland cause her to be overweight despite a healthy diet and exercise. âWhat a waste of space,â read one. Another: âHeifers like her should be put down.â Yet another said I should just kill myself âand spare everyoneâs eyes.â
Seida was able to track down a number of her attackers through their Facebook profiles, which surprised them, she said.
Nicky Jackson Colaco, privacy and safety manager for Facebook, said her company has taken the position that the site should have real identities.
âWe think when people use their real names they are more likely to be accountable for their actions and be less likely to do things or say things that they wouldnât say in the offline world,â said Jackson Colaco, who wasnât commenting on Seidaâs case but on the question of civility and social media.
Jackson Colaco said just as parents teach their children to show compassion in real life, children must learn compassion in the online world.
âI think as the Internet grows and as we see more people using social media, we will see a lot more attention paid to the idea of compassion online,â she said.
Peter Cavan, whose job heading up external communications at Pulse Energy includes digital strategy and social media, said technology and social media can amplify emotions â both positive and negative.
âTechnology and social media can certainly make negativity more visible,â he said. And social media amplifies messages instantly, giving no time for second thoughts.
âOn something like Twitter, certainly it is more instant,â said Cavan.
When it comes to our obsession with technology, behaviours that once might have been considered rude are now the norm.
Naima Salemohamed, a student at the University of Victoria, points out that while texting or checking Facebook on your smartphone in high school may be frowned upon, itâs hardly noticed at university.
âIf you sit in a class at university and youâre sitting there texting or using your phone, nobody is going to say anything to you, it has just become the norm,â she said.
âWe just have this need to be consistently on our cellphone these days. We are so attached to technology â I donât think itâs us being rude, itâs just how the culture has become.â
How mobiles have created a generation without manners: Three in four people think phones, laptops and social media have made us ruder
- Survey reveals the web and smartphones are destroying civility
- Employers also fear young workers are over-reliant on social media
- Some 'don't know how to write a letter any more' said one exec
By Steve Doughty for the Daily Mail
Published: 00:03 GMT, 5 September 2013 | Updated: 00:03 GMT, 5 September 2013
About three in four people now believe manners have been wrecked by phones, laptops, tablets and social media. File picture
For anyone who has had to wait for service while a shop assistant finished surfing the net on a smartphone, it will not come as a shock.
The latest handsets and other mobile devices may be helping a new generation to stay safer and better connected... but it’s making them ruder.
About three in four people now believe manners have been wrecked by phones, laptops, tablets and social media such as Facebook and Twitter, according to a poll by the modern etiquette guide Debrett’s.
Some 77 per cent think social skills are worse than 20 years ago, while 72 per cent think mobiles have encouraged rudeness. A report warned that company executives are now watching to check if their young employees are becoming over-dependent on their smartphones and screens in the office.
Some are ‘so over-reliant on computers and spellchecks that they don’t even know how to write a letter any more,’ one told Debrett’s.
The worry over the impact of mobile-dependency on the generation who have grown up with smartphones is the latest development in the spread of digital bad manners.
It follows years of growing parental frustration over teenagers who text at the table, anger among cinema audiences about phone conversations during the film, and occasional outbursts from actors provoked by ringtones from the stalls.
According to yesterday’s report, ‘the introduction of advanced mobile technology and superfast connectivity to businesses has boosted the Treasury by billions of pounds and will continue to do so for decades to come.
Employers feel basic workplace skills have been eroded by social media and an over-reliance on technology
‘However the pitfalls of over-reliance on technology are being revealed.’ A survey carried out by One Poll among 1,000 people found that 77 per cent think social skills now are worse than they were 20 years ago, and 72 per cent think mobiles have encouraged rudeness.
Nearly two thirds, 65 per cent, thought the importance of online relationships to many young people has had a negative effect on the way they conduct themselves when face-to-face with friends or colleagues.
The etiquette consultancy also conducted a study among a group of 58 senior executives which found that well over half looked for social skills rather than academic achievement in candidates for promotion.
They believed that a major problem among young employees was ‘constant use of mobile phones and social media in the office.’ A majority felt the written skills of young employees were ‘appalling’.
The report cited ‘a rift between virtual and real world personalities’, saying that 15 per cent of the people in its poll would feel confident walking into a room where they didn’t know anybody, while 62 per cent would be confident about creating a profile on a social networking site.
One in four are uncomfortable about meeting a new colleague face-to-face, and nearly half say they are nervous when they have to stand up in a meeting and give a formal presentation.
Louise Ruell, who runs business training for under-30s for Debretts, said: ‘Developing and maintaining a high level of skills across social and professional spheres is crucial to ensure success in both the workplace and everyday life.’
The organisation has published an etiquette guide for smartphone users in an attempt to steer people away from the most catastrophic failures of mobile manners.
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