Mind Your Manners

 It never fails. Just when my faith in the innate goodness of human beings starts to soar and I begin to think that just maybe we can all play nicely in the sandbox, the crap hits the fan.  Not too long ago I was watching a Twitter exchange between two prominent, intelligent people who locked horns over a pretty hot topic. Things got a bit heated between them but never really crossed the boundaries of polite, albeit tense, conversation.

Ta da! Enter the troll.  I don’t know why this surprises me. I swear I didn’t fall off the turnip truck yesterday or anything but still it shocked me that someone would stoop to name calling, blatant racism and general lunacy. The troll isn’t a new invention, we’ve all seen them. I guess  I just thought that now that social media is more ingrained in our culture, and in particular our business and political culture, that this troll stuff was as passé as ‘jumping the shark’.  

 So, I did a quick Google search about etiquette and social media. There’s still quite a bit to read on the subject as it turns out. Some articles focus on what they refer to as “cocktail” party etiquette, i.e. don’t be the guy in the room who talks only about themself and promotes their own interests shamelessly. Others helpfully remind us that Twitter and Facebook are public forums and therefore they are open to the public.  Thanks for the tip folks.

 Is it really that there’s just a jerk in every crowd who has to ruin what could be an interesting, heated, and grown-up dialogue? Does anonymity really breed stupidity?  What does someone gain by being an internet troll? Fame? I hate to break it to the trolls out there but we don’t know who you are and therefore the notoriety you hope to gain by being a moron doesn’t really touch the real you.  Perhaps that’s the lure? And, if you’re so brave and so intent on trashing people, why not have the courage to show us who you are?  Then we could put a face to the faux wisdom you dispense so willingly. This concept of the troll is a bit different to me than the stories we hear about people pretending to be someone they’re not, or dead when in fact they didn’t exist at all (poor Manti Te’o).  That’s a whole other story!

 I think it just makes me sad that anyone would want to use these wonderful platforms we have to trash others.  Social media is a powerful tool, we all know that. It’s a tool that provides us with so many opportunities to do good work, and of course lots of people do great work using social media. It affords us the chance to have a discussion with someone we might not ordinarily be able to talk to, and to engage with people who aren’t like us or part of our social circles. Right now we all get to hear from Commander Chris Hadfield‏ (@Cmdr_Hadfield) who tweets the most amazing pictures and provides us with his perspective as someone living in space. How cool is this? Why would anyone want to ruin something that has this kind of power? 

I think I’ll leave the last words to George Carlin, “Inside every cynical person, there is a disappointed idealist.