Although it has been millions of years since the humankind started communicating face-to-face, we still see many fall behind in this real life course. To make things worse, we now are introduced to a new kind of communication that we have never learned how to deal with in school or at home; the online communication etiquette.
Our parents taught us to say “thank you” and “excuse me.” These are complete, powerful, nice, and kind statements that mean a lot and serve a purpose. In school, we developed even better communication skills. We learned how to talk to strangers, how to acknowledge others and how to engage in a discussion with more than two persons.
My real world communication skills are very good. I know when to listen and when to speak. I know when and how to initiate a conversation and when the other party doesn’t want to engage in the conversation. I know when my students are nodding their heads as a result of agreeing with me or comprehending the material, and when they are nodding to fool me that they are following but in reality they are not. I know when to shake hand and when not.
On the other hand, my skills and etiquette in the online communication are very bad. Neither my parents nor my school taught me what to say or do when a stranger send me a Facebook friend request, or when someone doesn’t answer my Facebook friend request. Or someone doesn’t follow me back on twitter. No one informs you that they stopped following you on twitter, out of a sudden. All these behaviors are considered very rude in the real world. Imagine speaking to someone in front of you and he/she doesn’t answer you or even acknowledge your question.
When I joined Twitter I followed people but many of them didn’t follow back. Being new to twitter I unfollowed them, thinking it is rude not to follow back. Later, I decided it was naïve to do such thing. And since I wanted to hear news about Jordan I had a following mania. I followed more than 300 most of them tweet from Jordan. In the beginning, it was fun to be on top of what is happening in Jordan. It was great to be able to follow the news about #March24 Protest Camp in Amman . But then months later, more than 150 of those who I followed didn’t follow me back. So, I decided to unfollow.
As I said, I lack the etiquette of online communication. I just followed and unfollowed people twice in less than a year. Of course I didn’t inform them because they were not following me in the first place. I am not saying that everyone you follow should follow you back. It is, in some case, unreasonable and it is their choice to follow you or not. But not following back could be interpreted for different reasons. And since we lack the online communication etiquette we will never know why someone is not following back. It could be one or more of the followings:
It could be a polite message to the follower that you can follow me but I wish you don’t
They have thousands of followers and hence they can’t follow back everyone
You are not adding much to their online presence. I think I fall in this category since I only tweet my new posts. Twitter still not my thing
You tweet too much, or your tweets are useless, or any other reason that they don’t feel they should follow you back
Some individuals think it is prestigious if the number of their followers is more than the number of people they follow
and whatever other reasons
I found I have a problem with my online communication etiquette when I started using Twitter and when I started receiving comments and subscriptions to my blog. I never for example thanked any of my blog subscribers. I even didn’t acknowledge their subscriptions which now while I am writing this feel it is very rude and unprofessional. I wasn’t sure if I should do that or not. I think it would be a nice gesture but I never did it. I wasn’t taught what to do and what not in such case. It is totally a new realm for me. No one knows if we should acknowledge every comment to our blog or not. I know some Jordanian bloggers like Rand and Whisper do it. For some other bloggers like the Black-Iris it could be almost impossible with thousands of readers per post. I many times feel I have nothing to add to the comment on my blog but maybe a thank you would be enough. But again, it is a new communication skill that I need to learn about.
Facebook communication etiquette is much easier to learn than Twitter. When I send a friend request I always send an email with it. Informing the person that they should not feel obliged to accept my request. Some people reply back when they don’t feel comfortable accepting this request others ignore to reply back.
We all know to be successful we need to have a good communication skill. There are thousands of publications, courses and events about learning, developing and acquiring these skills. Unfortunately, most of these, if not all, publications are limited to the real world communication. Maybe it is time for the people in the social networking to start addressing these issues and start an online communication etiquette course. I am sure some on top of this business people already started addressing this issue but I think it is still undeveloped and in its early stage.
For everyone who reads and comments on this blog I would like to say thank you. And a special “THANK YOU!” to those who I have never thanked or acknowledge before, my dear subscribers. I know it is late but I am learning a new skill, the online communication etiquette. Without these comments and subscriptions I would never know if someone out there is reading my posts or not.