flaming vs. appreciative communication

yesterday, thomas from microsoft posted about blog reactions to some of robert scoble’s videos.

to those of you who don’t spend their day swimming around in the blogosphere (perhaps because your online life doesn’t completely consume all your hours?), robert scoble is a prominent speaker, author and blogger, particularly interested in the social aspects of the internet.

so scoble, once again, has the gall to have an opinion. this time he posts a video on his idea that eventually, google will be eclipsed by applications like facebook. the next day, he lets us know about some of the unfriendly reactions to that post.

what is it that drives people to be rude online? of course, i’m not exactly the first person to wonder that, so i’ll give it over to john suler and his “psychology of cyberspace” site. here are some of the reasons why people forget their manners:

you don’t know me (dissociative anonymity)
you can’t see me (invisibility)
see you later (asynchronicity)
it’s all in my head (solipsistic introjection)
it’s just a game (dissociative imagination)
we’re equals (minimizing authority))
personality variables
true self?
self constellations across media
altering self boundary

one thing i’d like to add is that this is not a new phenomenon. can some of you older folks reach back way in your memory now please … yes … there it is: there used to be a thing called “letters” (now sneeringly-endearingly referred to as snail mail).

people have always felt more disinhibited when it comes to writing. i guess that would play to the invisibility, asynchronicity and solipsism alluded to above. benny temkin and niza yanay made a study of this in ‘i shoot them with words’: an analysis of political hate-letters.

what to do about these rude emails? the people from humiliationstudies.org have an interesting suggestion: appreciative emailing. here is their pledge:

i pledge that in all my online communications, whether by way of email, posting to message boards, blogs or completion of any online form or wiki or editing of any website statement, that i will, at all times, honour the following rules:
– communicate online with respect
– listen carefully to others in order to understand their perspectives
– take responsibility for their words and actions
– keep criticism constructive
– respect diversity and be tolerant of differences

yes, i can pledge that.

isabella mori
counselling in vancouver

(this post was featured in the carnival of better blogging)

8 thoughts on “flaming vs. appreciative communication

  1. Thomas

    It is nice to know and have a better understanding of the causes behind the behavior. I posted my living room rules of posting on my site – the gist is, if you wouldn’t say it to my face in my living room, don’t post it.

    I am not trying to discourage conversations, and I understand that people can become angry or can be sensitive to issues, but that does not excuse derogatory or abusive comments.

    In my posts and comments, I try to build up, even with ideas I disagree with. I wrote a post Negativity Does Generate Forward Momentum where I question the value of negative comments with no follow up.

  2. isabella mori

    i was intrigued by the “appropriate level of respect” what do you mean by that?

    i also went to the good old stanford encyclopedia of philosophy, where they speak thus:

    “as suggested by its derivation from the Latin respicere, which means “to look back at” or “to look again,” respect is a particular mode of apprehending the object: the person who respects something pays attention to it and perceives it differently from someone who does not and responds to it in light of that perception. This perceptual element is common also to synonyms such as regard (from “to watch out for”) and consideration (“examine (the stars) carefully”). The idea of paying heed or giving proper attention to the object which is central to respect often means trying to see the object clearly, as it really is in its own right, and not seeing it solely through the filter of one’s own desires and fears or likes and dislikes. Thus, respecting something contrasts with being oblivious or indifferent to it, ignoring or quickly dismissing it, neglecting or disregarding it, or carelessly or intentionally misidentifying it. An object can be perceived by a subject from a variety of perspectives; for example, one might rightly regard another human individual as a rights-bearer, a judge, a superlative singer, a trustworthy person, or a threat to one’s security. The respect one accords her in each case will be different, yet all will involve attention to her as she really is as a judge, threat, etc. It is in virtue of this aspect of careful attention that respect is sometimes thought of as an epistemic virtue.

    As responsive, respect is object-generated rather than wholly subject-generated, something that is owed to, called for, deserved, elicited, or claimed by the object. We respect something not because we want to but because we recognize that we have to respect it (Wood 1999); respect involves “a deontic experience” — the experience that one must pay attention and respond appropriately”

  3. isabella mori

    thomas, thanks for your comment. i’ve been gnawing on that one for over a day now.

    you say

    “… if you wouldn’t say it to my face in my living room, don’t post it.

    I understand that people can become angry or can be sensitive to issues, but that does not excuse derogatory or abusive comments.”

    derogatory or abusive comments – yes, they are out. agreed on that. but comments (and other communication) don’t have to be either of them and can still be somewhere on the hurtful-unhelpful continuum. what about them?

    and then i wonder, when we write, is that ever really going to be like being face-to-face in the living room? well, perhaps if you’re bertrand russell, who supposedly dictated his books clean to his secretary, without hesitation or editing. but us mere mortals, we take time and revise and spellcheck when we write. we don’t do that when we talk.

    and as we take time (viz the asynchronicity factor, above) and don’t look each other in the eye (the invisibility factor), we often feel emboldened to be a bit more assertive. and that’s not necessarily a bad thing, is it?

  4. Jan Karlsbjerg

    My addition of “appropriate level of respect” has to do with tone and context.

    There are situations in life (offline and online) where it’s not appropriate to address others with the vocabulary and tone of an English butler.

    Sometimes you have to tell somebody that they’re full of shit, for example; or else they won’t take you seriously.

    (And this from me, a guy who absolutely hates, hates, hates “construction worker” language and tone. I’ve left social gatherings without a word that tone got adopted, and in a couple of cases physically marched people out of my home because they used unmistakably derogatory language about women, foreigners, etc.)

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