Social networks show increase in insensitivity


WITH the growing prevalence of technologies and virtual forums like instant messaging, texting and social media, on-screen communication is nearly replacing face-to-face dialogue – and the accompanying loss of non-verbal cues such as inflection and body language is leading to an upsurge of bad manners and hurt feelings.

In fact, more than three in four respondents report rising incivility online and two in five admit to blocking, unsubscribing, or “unfriending” someone due to an argument they had via social media.

The Human Edge (a South African training and consulting company) principal consultant Helene Vermaak says according to research undertaken by international partner VitalSmarts, social networks are becoming increasingly hostile.

Last week’s Twitter storm over cricketer Herschelle Gibbs tweet about the cricket bat in the Oscar Pistorius trial, for example, raised hackles for its flippant tone: “Just saw my signature on the bat used by the accused in Oscar trial … lol #neveradullmoment'” he tweeted from his Twitter handle @hershybru.

The backlash was so instant his girlfriend was later reported as saying Gibbs had “signed thousands of cricket bats in the past and he has never officially met Oscar or been friends with him”.

She also addressed the issue on Twitter on his behalf, writing: “Dear media: @hershybru’s ‘lol’ merely expressed the irony of the bat he’d signed that appeared in court today and was not disrespecting anyone.”

Vermaak warns users on pitfalls they may not have considered: “Social media has enabled us to link with people in and out of our social circles and ultimately develop relationships in ways that weren’t possible before,” Vermaak says.

“But as with all new things, etiquette and rules around how to use these platforms haven’t caught up with the massive growth in usage.”


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