Digital Etiquette

This week in my Digital Citizenship class we were given this prompt:

Young people and cell phones are not the only issues we see with digital etiquette! Describe a digital etiquette situation you’ve encountered personally or professionally.

Most of the time when I think of digital etiquette, I think of cell phones. This is the most common and most visible annoyance. People talking loudly on the phone in a public place, people on their phones over dinner instead of actually conversing with each other, people or students texting during class, Snapchatting people without their permission, and the list just goes on and on. All of these are very visible examples of poor etiquette.

A less visible yet equally rude form of bad digital etiquette is online language. How do we speak to each other and respect each other online? My generation and those older than me did not grow up with the internet and social media. I remember sending my first email to Uncle Ed in Arizona when I was in middle school and I remember being amazed at how incredibly fast it got there! Facebook was my first social media platform. I fumbled around and learned. I am quite lucky that I was raised to be polite in all situations, so I was able to transfer that skill over to how I interacted in social media. Some adults, however, were not so lucky as me in that regard apparently.

I see adults who do not read and follow the group guidelines for a Facebook writing group. The guidelines clearly say that no book promotion is allowed except for the threads that specify this. Yet, week after week I see the Admins post a reminder to read the guidelines because someone had not followed them.

Oh, and have you ever read the comments on just about anything? This is where the drama is located! It is horrible! I follow Madeline Stewart on Instagram. She is a model with Down Syndrome. She was recently in the hospital with some medical issues for about a month. She posted pictures to let her fans know how she was doing. When she was released, someone posted a comment saying she should have died and she has no business modeling. This sickened me. Ugly words which I cannot repeat were said by many. I am repeatedly appalled at how quickly some adults resort to name calling. Adults. This is when I have the greatest doubts about our survival as a human race. How can so many be filled with such contempt for each other?

So clearly, if adults behave this badly online, how can we expect better from our students? We will teach them. They will have the benefit of direct instruction and hope that they learn digital etiquette better than my generation.  

We can (and do) teach students directly about how to speak politely even when they have the perceived shield of anonymity. Further though, I think we have another opportunity here. I think some resort to name calling because they do not have the tools to express their thoughts in a more intelligent way. In my Trends and Practices class, I am developing lessons on Reading TEKS 8.9 G: explain the purpose of rhetorical devices such as analogy and juxtaposition and of logical fallacies such as bandwagon appeals and circular reasoning. Perhaps if we taught this we with more purpose, we could give the next generation the tools they need to properly express their thoughts and feelings.

Perhaps with this generation we can bring out the kindness that I see in humanity. Digital tools can be used for so much good! In so many of the writing groups I follow and participate in, there is such love and support for each other. When one person is feeling lost and feels like giving up, others jump in and encourage. They offer good advice. They remind them that things are not always as bad as they seem at times, and offer hope. They bring joy and friendship. This is when I feel the best about humanity!

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