Ponder on the humble telephone.  Once in the form of a land line in most of our homes, ringing senza caller-display/ photo/ ringtone, maintaining it’s mystique due to not necessarily knowing whom was at the other end of the line.

Do you remember that feeling? The anticipation of a long awaited call; is it or isn’t it them? Only to exhale loudly when finding out that it’s NOT for you.  Ah well, maybe they will call later? Either way, the voice at the end of the phone had to speak before a persona could be established and in turn, appropriate social skills were applied, dependent as to whether they were a friend of your parents, a family member or a peer from one of various circles of friends. Tone of voice was applied and mood was also transparent based on rhythm of conversation and enthusiastic (or unenthusiastic) linguistics. How easy it once was to know if someone was feeling low! Or if that other person seemed edgy or unreceptive. All could be sensed by the wonderful use of vocal chords.

So this brings me to my question. One can no longer ascertain or indeed, face up to the situation at hand with the other caller, mainly as now any number of tactics can be applied to avoid ‘physical reality’. The caller display will flash up a name or an ‘unknown’ and the recipient will more often than not screen because they are ‘not in the mood’ to talk. Or, due to the now more blurry line of when someone IS available (i.e. based on land lines from before, you were most likely to call after a certain time in the evening, acknowledging working hours of that person and therefore general movements if at home) we no longer necessarily know IF and WHEN is appropriate to call, so we resort to try at any time of day as a lucky dip for answering. Although again, unless you have a direct land line (which might also well be screened by a Customer Service team or PA), it is unlikely your recipient will pick up.  And it’s most likely that they will forget you called, due to their busy day (unless you leave a voice message but this seems to be phasing out too) and a day or more will pass before the memory of your missed call hits them whilst sipping on an afternoon cup of tea. Too late! Your feelings are probably now a little hurt and you feel ignored. You question your relationship with this person and whether it is appropriate to ‘bother’ calling again. You move on and call another person who DOES answer. In the meantime, your original caller quite simply forgot. Who knew the impact of a delayed response!

This is the damage that has now been allowed to manifest.  Based on the endless possibilities to contact other people (I need not list all digital messaging services) we have no choice but to filter our social circles and make allowances and time for ourselves because we are all so accessible! Where does it end and how did this all begin??  Working in Social Media myself, I am fully aware of the beast and the level of exposure I have with these devices are unusually high due to it being within my job requirements. I am online almost 80% of my day, however, I am fully aware that the majority either have restricted access, no access or just plain ‘don’t want’ access. So I manage expectations and am realistic of response times. One question I often raise in my mind is whether one day these social platforms will be intelligent enough to take into account personality types to therefore help manage the ‘why have they not responded yet??’ users or the plain ignorant ones.

Our survival extincts (as well as our social skills) are what is needed here in regards to readjusting and in many ways re-embracing a new culture of social ‘etiquette’. We now need to rewire our thinking AND approach to the subject of Social Media as it is, quite simply, NOT going away. We live in an ever expanding technological age, with more and more devices becoming available to a wider demographic. To avoid social media in favour of reminiscing of an age before, longing for a mobile device with buttons rather than touch-screen or when we ‘had no mobile phones’ is foolish. Civilisation IS progression and our survival instincts WILL adapt and we must face this future with zeal, amending our perspectives rather than wishing for the past (time-travel still in research).

As a reference, I find it quite useful to visualise a format in which certain Social Media tools are physical beings. This helps me to accept them as part of a regular lifestyle now.

For example, let’s look at the spawn of Zuckerberg:

Facebook: This IS your first impression. If Facebook were a person, it would be the host/hostess of a dinner party, introducing you to the guests and initiating the 1st handshake or air-kiss between each other, whilst mentioning details such as what you do, where you have been and if you know another person in such social circles (“This is Mary, she recently came back from a trip to India and works for that magazine I mentioned. She knows Stefan over there”. In turn, how you present yourself is how those around you would ‘capture’ you in their mind. You can say as little or as much as you like, however most of the opinion formed of you is done with 5 minutes, as this is enough time for them to spy photos of you, read recent updates and the ‘About’ part (which I recommend is as neutral as possible. Only those below 20 genuinely seem to care or even read if you like to watch Misfits or if you enjoy mottoes by the Dalai Lama).

One area that is to the detriment of such facilities though are Personality Types which are less considered when it comes to Social Media. For the Superior personalities, such tools are in fact ego-enforcers and can be a danger in providing a platform of too much self-importance. Accumulating friends or followers can lead to an almost God-like complex where a false sense of worth is created and the next world dictator is born.

The Extrovert will adore such tools too because they have accessibility to view the goings on and most basic information immediately and therefore have no worry of necessarily what the other is thinking (unless that friend is not a frequent user) however the Introvert may have their lines of privacy tested, unable to fathom the friend counts of others and not deeming their own lives of that much interest to publish.

The question I have though, is how do we sync our social skills with social media? Quite easily in fact, it just needs to be applied correctly and manners need to be remembered. Additionally, I consider MORE language the better. Words provide colour and when you are unable to have a face-to-face conversation, how you describe yourself and other details are vital in getting the message across. We are all different creatures, that’s the beautiful thing, we are individuals.

So if before such facilities were commonly used, did you reply to texts or written letters? Did you call that person back who left a message? If you answered yes then you must do the same on Social! BUT….and this is a big but: just be realistic.

Several factors must now be accounted for due to our friendship circles being unnaturally large and details unnecessarily obtainable.  Remember, whereas in old days if you moved on from a workplace or living area, you might have lost numbers or email addresses therefore the acceptable filtering that happens with transition was able to go through its appropriate cycle.  Social platforms have enabled, in fact insisted that we must now latch onto the past.  Why so?!  You just need to know which camp your ‘friend’ falls into.  Consider the following (remember, I apply these guidelines based on use within a purely social capacity, not regarding advertising talents or pages) :

  • Facebook – Friends should be your only contacts on here. Ultimately, you must filter to gain a better understanding of whom these people are.  Remember, they all have access to photos, current moments, timelines etc.  so just ask yourself ‘Would I cross the street to avoid this person?’ If the answer is yes, then you must unfriend. Otherwise, your ego is clearly just in need of an audience.
  • Twitter – This is an interesting divider as you can unfollow someone as quickly as you follow them and your followers should join you voluntarily without force (however I am aware you can buy them or gain them through unsolicited means.  Philistines).  Tends to be a mixture of friends, acquaintances and admirers (or hecklers).  The wide potential of audience is endless due to  the restricted character limit.  The test is to remember to tweet appropriately as you might be sharing your whereabouts with relative strangers.
  • Linkedin – An excellent, work-based tool which does not (at least I hope so) blur the lines of what is a ‘work’ connection is or just an acquaintance.  A networking dream, so circles can be utilised here to help each other out.  Just remember, it’s in a work capacity.  And be aware that this is a recruiter’s chocolate box so feel free to ignore attempts to ‘add to network’.  Try not to think of it as a dating site  either (although I dare say this is already occurring, perhaps with that recently promoted and therefore more affluent colleague).

So I implore you to persist and stay true to character!  Try not to think negatively about the subject and desist from further chastisement that people don’t ‘talk’ anymore or meet up in person.  Set the standard and lead by example, not by what you THINK others are doing (as the likelihood is that they are busier wondering what YOU are doing).  Courtesy and politeness are not yet bygone attributes and I (for one) am MORE than willing to uphold them.