Courtesy 101 – Trying to Recapture a Social Grace

Normally I stay away from touchy subjects on this blog. But a confluence of events has brought an issue that bothers me to the front of my mind. This has annoyed me for some time, and now I feel compelled to say something about it.

I recently became aware of someone who offended some Facebook friends with a social-political comment, which led to further interactions, which led to some badly bruised offline relationships. All because of some “clever,” but not very kind, remarks.

Although we were taught not to discuss religion, politics, or other controversial issues socially, all bets seem to be off with social media. For some reason, since we don’t have to look the people we’re addressing in the eye, we feel we can say any controversial (or unpleasant) thing we like on Facebook, Twitter, and similar media sites. And what we say can then be “shared” through our “friends,” affecting and possibly hurting or offending people we don’t even know. That may be fun for some people, but certainly not for all.

WordPress has a resource to help bloggers find topics every day – It’s called 365 Days of Writing Prompts. Here’s the serendipitous/timely prompt for today:

religionandpolitics

So here’s the thing. I know I’m getting old, and we’ve shed a million taboos and inhibitions (to say nothing of the concept of privacy) since I reached adulthood – but honestly, do we have to abandon all niceties? 

We are privileged to live in a country where we are free to express our opinions and beliefs. But with every privilege comes a responsibility. Express away – but please do so with a little civility. If you disagree with someone or something, feel free to do it, but do it with respect – the same respect you’d like holders of the opposing viewpoint to have for you. Don’t be vulgar, bullying, or nasty. Don’t use name-calling, dubious facts, or insults to make your point. Do you honestly think that being rude and snarky will enhance your position or image, or encourage those who disagree to lean your way?

Here are some Merriam-Webster definitions of polite:

  • of, relating to, or having the characteristics of advanced culture
  • marked by an appearance of consideration, tact, deference, or courtesy
  • marked by a lack of roughness or crudities

When our children were growing up, we taught them something very important. Courtesy, manners, etiquette, politeness – whatever you choose to call it – comes down to a simple concept: making those around you comfortable. Use the Golden Rule if you need further guidance.

In an awkward situation? How would you want the other person to treat you? What would make you comfortable? Do you appreciate thank-you’s? Then acknowledge gifts from others. Do you dislike being called names? Then don’t do it to someone else. Do you hate walking into a place where you don’t know anyone? Walk up and introduce yourself to someone in the same boat.

I have very dear friends on both ends of the US political spectrum, and sometimes I agree with points made by folks at either end. Sometimes I disagree. But I never engage in those discussions online. I value these people too much to engage in arguments with them in front of the whole Facebook universe.

So here’s a possible solution (if you agree there’s a problem)… Facebook allows users to add “pages” to their accounts. If you want to opine freely or begin an animated discourse on dicey topics in a tone that might hurt or offend, then start an opinion page and vent there. Better yet, start a blog! Those who want to engage will happily “follow” and meet you there. Those who don’t, well, they can continue to enjoy your news and pictures of your families and vacations without being made uncomfortable on social media.

Maybe I’m a dinosaur, but I think that could be the polite thing to do.

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Banner image credit:  © gde_ya – Fotolia.com #52547508

A few related sites and posts:

This post was written in response to the January 15th daily prompt from the WordPress ebook 365 Days of Writing Prompts.

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16 Responses to Courtesy 101 – Trying to Recapture a Social Grace

  1. macmsue says:

    I certainly agree with you.

  2. Tahira says:

    Brilliantly put!

  3. One brontosaurus to another, I TOTALLY AGREE WITH YOU. It’s the same thing with people behind the wheel. It seems that chunk of metal – if that’s what cars are made of – DUH – that surrounds people gives them that little bit of extra courage to spew nasty stuff at other drivers for, sometimes, what might be their own error in judgment anyway! Manners. Politeness. Consideration. Respect. DANG! What ever happened to you get more bees with honey. I’m sorry. I’m all over the place, but jeez! Too many people use social media (and metal) to say and do what they might never dream of doing face to face. Do unto others? Yes indeedy!!! :-)

  4. Leya says:

    Well, then we are at least two dinosaurs.

  5. I try to stay away from political or religious discussions on social media. There are many who don’t play nice, as you said, and it can and does get ridiculous. If a “friend” posts something that I strongly disagree with, I simply say to myself “I strongly disagree with that” and run the other way! No need to post derogatory comments on someone’s opinion post. It just makes you look like an idiot.

  6. Marianne says:

    It’s amazing (and sometimes surprising) how often people in the privacy of their homes behind their laptops or in their car, behave in a manner towards others that they would NEVER do face-to-face.
    It’s as if they think they are invisible!

  7. cocoaupnorth says:

    A very heartfelt post TRS. I couldn’t agree with you more.

  8. Well said. This is something we should all be able to agree on!

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