I'm completely fascinated by observing and analysing the behaviours that one can glimpse in social platforms and by the way in which people relate to one another.
How you connect, why you connect or why you decide not to. What it takes to step forward and connect with someone. How your perception changes in regard to someone you've never spoken to but who mentions you on Twitter one day. The empathy that arises with someone who suddenly shares an event with you. How much you can have in common with someone who's seen suggested to you on Facebook or LinkedIn time and time again and whom you've never contacted until they contact you. Or the interesting, rewarding blog you discover one day when the person running it mentions your blog.
Behaviour you read between the lines
In the same way there is an unwritten contract in the social web, there are certainly unwritten and unspoken behaviours too. We don't talk about them because it's not in our best interest to point them out. However, that doesn't mean they don't exist:
- Speaking greatly of great work carried out by others isn't a sin (even if you don't follow them or if they don't follow you, you won't be going to hell for it!)
- Following someone, reading what they say, supporting them, sharing their projects, articles or videos, recommending them to possible clients isn't a felony (even if this person doesn't follow you, doesn't always get back to you or doesn't hang on your every word!).
- Saying that someone you share your profession with (what someone might call "your competition") is simply brilliant and counting on them for a project, a conference, a blogpost or a client won't make you less respected, believable or influential. Quite the opposite!
- Reading, sharing, following, mentioning, praising someone for sharing a programme, course, conference, tweet or anything of the kind, doesn't really say anything interesting about you and doesn't really add value to the other person or yourself. There is no real connection!.
People usually say that the social web is socialising but are we really sure about this? We become more select, twisted, Machiavellian, sarcastic, even cynical and intolerant. The only thing that's changed, really, is that we can add a smiley at the end of every sentence, "J", and then everything seems to make sense.
Let's start by being ourselves, being honest, clear and direct. There's nothing wrong with ending a sentence with a full stop; quite the opposite, it should be the most common and coherent way to do so. I find it really hard to believe you can get along with everyone or that you can refer to everyone as your "sweetie" or "dear". It's like you want to be at every party, be accepted by any circle of Tweeps or be chosen as a panel member at every social organisation conference.
I don't think I'm a pessimistic type of guy, tedious or a cretin. However, I'm also aware I'm not interested in being worshipped or revered in the comments to my blog or in every tweet I get as feedback after a conference or in reaction to one of my own tweets. Whoever you are in your real life, so should you be in the digital world; otherwise, something's not quite right!
- The ways we connect are changing, we have new tools and trends. However, our values and personality shouldn't be altered by such changes in our environment.
- Answer back when you feel the need, not out of obligation.
- Speak when you have something relevant to say, not because you're supposed to say something.
- If you need to be forceful with someone, you're entitled to be so, but be prepared for an equally forceful comeback.
- Empower the small people who do great things, not self-centred celebrities.
The key lies in our reaction to social (unfortunately, not human) stimulus.
I'm increasingly certain that we react to the "social" stimuli provided by the social networks. And I believe that "react" is the right word. The opposite of this would be to take initiative, to find something valuable (something that will normally happen right in front of us), pay attention to it, value it objectively and offer the acknowledgement that that person, product or project deserves.
If we limited our interest, anxiety, ego and arrogance to things that make a difference, we wouldn't have to worry about what will happen if we act sincerely and with dignity!
Photo credit: Robin Huton.