By now it is an agreed fact that rudeness can run riot on social media as “Twitter trolls” or “keyboard warriors” launch cyberspace insults at each other.
Yet what impact is this having on our real-life interactions? Are we on a slippery slope to a less civil society?
Author and editor David Meagher has tackled more than 150 social etiquette scenarios in his book, The A to Z of Modern Manners, which includes advice on everything from texting while walking, to “unfriending” someone on Facebook.
He is a self-described curmudgeon for whom manners are vital and social media represents a changing of the playing field.
“The thing about social media is often people hide behind the anonymity of it … people say and do things they wouldn’t in normal life,” he told ABC News Breakfast.
“Which is why it’s always very easy to descend into an argument with people on Facebook in the comment section.
“You could say people are ruder, but the nature of the technology allows people to communicate with a range of people on a range of topics and it’s really easy to have your two cents worth without having to think about it before you hit send.”
However, Meagher said the proliferation of social media platforms and the increasing amount of time spent on them is starting to influence face-to-face interactions.
“Sometimes those kind of habits that you get into and the way you speak on Twitter or on Facebook or Instagram can kind of creep into your day-to-day life,” he said.
“I see it in the workplace all the time.
“I hate to say it, but especially with younger people … they’re used to commenting on things because they can comment on things [online].
“Whereas I think five or 10 years ago, people might have just sort of spoken when they were spoken to.”
‘I’m always the optimist’
While social media might be a breeding ground for bad manners, Meagher said it was not the first time society has had to deal with changing social norms.
David’s social media guide:
- Twitter: “If you’re ever in doubt as to whether or not what you want to tweet might cause offence then sit on it for a while before you hit the tweet button.”
- Facebook: “Remember, whatever you post might be read by your mother.”
- Instagram: “Liking your own images is weird and unnecessary. We know you liked it, the fact that you posted it to Instagram tells us so.”
- Snapchat: “Don’t ramble. So many snaps are just people babbling in order to fill their 10 seconds.”
- LinkedIn: “Don’t fabricate any of the information, as it is so much easier for a potential employer to verify things today than it was before the internet.”
Source: The A to Z of Modern Manners
“I’m always an optimist,” he said.
“I’m constantly asked questions now about social media, and I think it’s just because of new technology.
“If you go back to the 1950s I read a few historical etiquette books, they were faced with dilemmas such as: how do you behave in work now there’s a whole lot more women in the workplace?
“Or when aeroplane travel became much more common, rich people mixed with poor people and so on so they had to work out a way for different social classes to mix together.
“As society changes and as there’s been huge shifts in the way people live, the way we behave comes into question as well.”
So what is Meagher’s advice for navigating this manners minefield?
“Keep in mind you live in a society with other people and your behaviour does impact on other people.”