Saturday, September 5, 2009

Respect, Kindess, and Empathy in Social Media

Can social-networking technology actually be social? I've worried, not just about anti-social behavior like bullying and ranting, but about people substituting face-to-face, or ear-to-ear, and hand-in-hand communication. Much is lost in the media.

Will the next generation be burrowed in their own niches, texting in syllables, with only like-minded fbfs--completely incable of geniune social skills?* No tubs of ice cream in this picture.

Yet I saw a glimmer of hope in the words of Himanshu Nigam, chief security officer at News Corp. and MySpace. In an article posted by Cnet, Nigam made the following points about the potential of social networking sites to promote certain social behaviors:

Post with respect: photos are a great way to share wonderful experiences. If you're posting a photo of you and your friends, put yourself in your friends' shoes and ask would your friends want that photo to be public to everyone. If yes, then you're uploading photos with respect.

Comment with kindness: compliments are like smiles, they're contagious. When you comment on a profile, share a kind word, others will too.

Update with empathy: sharing updates lets us tell people what we think. When you give an opinion on your status updates, show empathy towards your friends and help them see the world with understanding eyes.

So with lessons in media literacy can come lessons of social literacy. What an engaging and unsexpected arena to teach caring for ourselves and others! Conversations about fair, just, generous, and kind dealings naturally can be reasoned out as we teach our students how to best interact on the web. Alas, maybe with media can be geniunely social, even if the ice cream must be served separately.


*fbfs - Facebook friends

Image credit: "Goat Milk Ice Cream." By Stu Spivak. 29 May 2007. Flickr. Licensed under Creative Commons: BY, SA.

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