Does Social Media Promote “Boorish” Behavior?

September 13, 2011
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Recently, I found myself reading a magazine I don’t often encounter.  The publication is geared for senior citizens (I’m not part of that demographic), yet I was interested in an article that offered social media tips to seniors.  I was intrigued.  What particular perspectives would the author choose to share with this community of people?  How savvy might our retirees be with social media?

Days later, I found myself ruminating over one phrase the author used that stuck: “boorish behavior.” That is, the author believes that social media can – and often does – lead to “boorish behavior.”

The phrase stuck out to me for a couple of reasons.  First, I realized I’m not really sure exactly what “boorish” means.  Second, I wondered whether or not I agreed with the author.

I started with the definition. Dictionary.com defines boorish as follows:  “Boorish, oafish, rude, uncouth.  All describe persons, acts, manners, or mannerisms that violate in some way the generally accepted canons of polite, considerate behavior.  Boorish, originally referring to the behavior characteristic of an unlettered rustic or peasant now implies a coarse and blatant lack of sensitivity to the feelings or values of others.    Ex: a boorish refusal to acknowledge greetings.”

Ok, now that I have the definition, what do I think? Could it be true that social media promotes boorish behavior?

After much consideration and digging beyond the obvious complaints related to spamming and over-promoting, I believe there are at least four things that could be considered boorish on social media.  At the risk of offending others, I’ll offer up my views:

1) Tagging photos of your friends/family members (or anyone else!) in unflattering shots.  Now I’m not referring to the photos of your college buddy doing a keg stand or your girls-gone-wild evening with the neighborhood mom’s – that’s another conversation entirely.  I’m talking about posting photos of others that are just plain unflattering.

For example, I saw some class reunion photos posted recently that had a small group of people smiling for the camera.  One person, unfortunately, was caught with his eyes closed and his mouth making a strange contortion – not by his planning I’m certain. My guess is that he was disappointed to see the photo on-line.  Yes, he had the option to un-tag himself (and he did), however, the photo should not have been posted in the first place.  As a rule, if every person would not love the picture, don’t post it. Period.  In my mind, that’s just common courtesy.

2) Asking for Money.  I love charities, and have several that I support on an ongoing basis.  I also love my friends and family members.  When friends or family ask me to support them and a charity they are involved with, I rarely (dare I say never?) say no.  However, lately I have received a string of requests solely through social media, and I take issue with that.  Giving, charity, and budgets are personal things, and asking for money warrants a personal approach.  A verbal request or a written letter with a hand addressed envelope sends a better message.  Social media requests are impersonal.  Yes, giving people an on-line donation process is convenient for all, however the initial appeal should not be made electronically.  In doing so, personal friends and family members are relegated to a “batch” of prospects, like a prospect list bought by a marketing company.  Yuck.

3) Sending thank you notes.  Consider these notes:

 “Great to see you today – thanks for the cup of coffee” – fine.

“Thanks for getting that report to me so quickly” – fine.

“Thanks for the hospitality” –  NO.

“Thanks for the wedding gift”NO.

“Thanks for the interview”NO.

You get it.  For small things, by all means, use e-mail or social media.  However, for acts of kindness such as hospitality or a birthday/wedding gift, a hand written thank-you note is always good form.  A hand written note sends the signal: I appreciate you, I think about you, and I want to acknowledge your efforts.  An email one says I’m a busy person, and this is good enough.  (Not the message you want to send.)

Now before the gloves come off from my tech-savvy and tech-addicted friends, let me offer this concession: an email thank-you is better than none at all. However, the gift of a personal handwritten note is a small sacrifice; takes little time and money, and means a lot to the recipient.   Good graces, I’ve heard, are made from small sacrifices.

4) Complaining about husband/wife/boss/hairdresser (or whoever!).  It may seem tempting to use social media to blow off some steam.  Don’t do it!  People have been known to use social media to say things in cyberspace that they would never – in a million years – have the courage or audacity to say face-to-face.  FaceBook, Twitter, etc. are not appropriate venues to address sticky issues in your life. To the contrary, your readers learn more about your character than that of the person you are berating.

Do you think there is a reason the concept of “being boorish on social media” was addressed in a magazine geared toward seniors?  Have the younger generations lost the ability – and the desire – to exercise good social graces?  Or are the rules slowly changing?  What do you think?

Susan Dooley is a corporate trainer with Dale Carnegie Training in the Detroit area.  The views provided in this article are Susan’s only, and do not represent those of the Dale Carnegie Organization as a whole.  This post is shared with you by the good folks at Dale Carnegie Training of Central & Southern New Jersey. We would love to connect with you on Facebook

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