The death of netiquette and the decline of quality of life on Facebook.
Facebook may never actually die, but
the neighborhood sure has gone to hell.
One of the interesting things about social networking is that one of its key components – threaded discussion or comments – has been around since before the web even existed, beginning with the CBBS’s of the late 70′s. Like so many of the fine things in life though – like espresso drinks, literature, and proper grammar – once the commoner got involved, it all went to hell. I personally first noticed a serious decline in the quality of internet life around 2005. This of course was the year that MySpace first rose to prominence, but we can’t blame it all on sparkly animated unicorn graphics. It was also the year that “blog” became a household word (it was Merriam-Webster’s word of the year in 2004), the year that broadband access surpassed 50% of the US population, and the year that Google achieved near-total dominance of search, and made AdSense the most popular method of easy revenue generation on the web. This meant that at exactly the point where all the mouth breathers were finally getting on the web, they also had a readily-available way to self-publish, and two incentives to do so. First, an arrogant confidence in their ill-conceived beliefs fueled by watching Bill O’Reilly, and second, the ability to monetize their mindless rants by sticking ad content in their sites and spamming Google with SEO tricks (we’ve talked about content farms before). When you begin to look at the numbers for all the available ways to self publish – 800 million Facebook users, 200 million Twitter users, 150 million blogs (growing rapidly, by the way), and presumably another few hundred million Tumblr, LiveJournal, Flickr, and YouTube accounts – you realize that we now have as many content creators as consumers amongst the web’s 2 billion or so users. NO WONDER the whole concept of web courtesy known as netiquette has gone out the window. WE’RE ALL EXPERTS, goddamit, so SFTU LOL. Tell me you haven’t experienced one of the following things on Facebook: You share a really cool link, and your “friend” reposts it without a “via” or “hat tip” and gets more comments than you did, leaving you a little grumpy. You get engaged in a dynamic political dialogue, and suddenly find your blood boiling as it devolves down to a two or three person argument with massive paragraphs of polarized ranting. You post the coolest link that’s ever been posted on the web, and not a single person comments. Or maybe you share a link to an article about starvation in Somalia, and people “Like” it instead of commenting. These are all examples of things that I think have diminished the quality of the Facebook experience for many of us, and they all could have been easily avoided if people understood the basic principles behind the archaic concept of netiquette. And I realize that addressing “the Facebook experience” in a serious way seems almost comical, but let’s face it – millions of us check Facebook as or more often than we check email, and it’s a small but significant part of what may shape your mood in the morning. But it’s probably too late now; people more than ever are far more interested in their own thoughts than others’, and the analogy of Facebook and a civilized threaded discussion has one big weakness: good discussion boards have moderators, and the only moderators on Facebook are 400 million morons. I think I’m being kind here, I’m saying that more than half of Facebook users AREN’T morons, and I think you can agree that’s being pretty generous. So it’s probably too late for Facebook, but just in case you get sucked into the NEXT social network – assuming there is one – below are a few of the old netiquette terms and principles that might make the experience a little more enduring and enjoyable. Me, I’m boycotting Facebook until they enable sparkling animated GIF’s.
Actually, I made this term up to describe the act of re-sharing someone else’s link without attribution. It’s weird that we feel a sense of “ownership” when we share a link, I mean, the web is MADE of links, but we do. Traditionally, it was considered polite to give a “hat tip” to the original poster by adding “Via” or “ht” next to their name. This was always true on blogs, but is even more meaningful on Facebook, when the friend you “stole” the link from is going to see it go down their feed anyway and think you’re an ass when you don’t credit them. This really is the lowest form of plagiarism possible; when you’re doing it you’re not only deriving ego gratification that relies on the original creator’s cleverness, you’re also showing that you’re too lazy to do any WORK to stroke your ego by finding links YOURSELF.
Flaming, Trolling, And Ad Hominem Attacks
Trolling on Facebook is just plain stupid – the person you troll doesn’t have to wait for a moderator, they can just “unfriend” you. And ad hominem attacks are all fine and dandy between two friends who get the jab, but they still fall flat when others see them and genuinely thinks someone’s being an ass. Flaming seems inevitable, but there are only two topics you have to avoid to prevent it. Religion and politics. It’s rare for people to go on 1200 word rants about funny cat videos.
RTA, RTFA, and TL;DR
If you’re not familiar with the abbreviations, they’re for “read the article”, “read the f**cking article”, and “too long; didn’t read” respectively. When someone posts a link to an article about a politician you despise, before you start spouting about how much the politician sucks, read the article. Maybe it’s about how they realized the nature of their wrongs and switched parties recently. And tl;dr should only be used by the poster of a long post to summarize, not by the commenter to pre-excuse the irrelevance of their comment
Warnock’s Dilemma & Godwin’s Law
Godwin’s Law of course is the observation made by Mike Godwin that “As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1″. This strangely seems to have been replaced by calling someone a socialist or referencing “entitlements” if they say anything about affordable health care being a nice idea. And Warnock’s Dilemma isn’t really a dilemma at all, it just describes the fact that a lack of comments on a post indicates nothing about other user’s INTEREST in a post. Speculation about the lack of comments on the interesting link you shared is pointless – it may just mean it was so interesting that your friend forgot to come back and comment, or that they fell prey to “wikiphilia” – but in most cases the lack of comments probably indicates that the person was “linkjacking” and didn’t want to leave any evidence behind that you’re the person they “stole” the link from.
Have more thoughts on courtesy on the web? Fee free to share in the comments. Until we disable them because your comments are so asinine.