Bully for You (Rude Behavior Online)

Everyone occasionally gets annoyed now and then by status updates posted by our friends and acquaintances on social media sites like Twitter and Facebook. In fact, a recent survey conducted by a corporate training firm revealed that 20 percent of social media users have avoided meeting others in person as a result of fighting on a social site, and two out of five admitted to blocking or deleting friends.

It seems that people are less polite online than in person, and that rudeness has increased over the past few years on social media with little regard for the person on the receiving end.

According to the survey, those who were most guilty were individuals under the age of 30 who were four times more likely than those of the Baby Boom age to engage in cyber fighting.

The definition of rudeness is an apparent disrespect and failure to behave within the context of people’s social laws or etiquette. These laws have already unspokenly been established as the essential boundaries of normally accepted behavior.

You know the guy (or gal)—the person with a massive sense of self-importance who believes his ideas and opinions carry more weight than anyone else’s. He has the most-correct political views and does not like to be challenged. Or just the opposite—he goes out of his way to discredit another’s view at any cost. He has a pat defense to put down any reply that may have some validity but would make him look wrong.

Behavior online seems to carry a lack of social norms. People used to spend their free time reading books or newspapers and chatting with their friends on the phone. Today they use their leisure time engaging on social media, which to date is lacking in social norms. There are no set rules for interaction. Since there are no consequences to any actions online, people feel a sense of entitlement to do as they say or think.

So where does this leave those who feel responsible for acting out of consideration for others online? Has courteous, polite behavior been damaged by digital devices? Should we have an online code of conduct? Who would police it?

Rude behavior comes from many different origins—stress, illness, sleep deprivation, depression, insecurity. By setting limits tactfully and assertively instead of aggressively, we may help to calm down the in-your-face behavior.

Author P.M. Forni presents such questions in his book “The Civility Solution – What to Do When People Are Rude.” He gives some tips at the conclusion of his book that may help us all react to coping with rude behavior online.

  • Don’t personalize rude behavior. It is not about you, even though it is directed at you.
  • Respond with calmness.
  • Don’t demean others; this only reflects poorly on you.
  • Don’t assume that rudeness is a permanent part of the other person’s personality. It is a pattern of rudeness (not one incident) that determines character.
  • Try to address the underlying cause of this behavior (“I can see you’re stressed. Maybe I could help if you tell me what’s bothering you.”).
  • Know how to respond to a rude individual and know when to leave the scene.
  • If the conversation continues to be irrational, know when to just say no, I cannot be a part of this anymore.

By trying to understand rudeness and knowing how to respond to a belligerent individual online by not retaliating and imitating their behavior, we may find a way to get others to treat strangers and acquaintances like they matter, and in turn they may be inspired to reciprocate and help create a kinder society.

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