September 3, 2018

A Social Media Code of Conduct --Wouldn't That Be Nice?


I don't spend a lot of time on social media. I dropped Facebook a few months ago because of all the privacy and security concerns. Plus, I wasn't using it very much anyway. I do have a Twitter account, strictly for promotion of the blog, the podcast, and my books. That's it. No Pinterest, Snapchat, or Instagram. 

Obviously, all of social media has come under some type of scrutiny over the past few years. The use by "bad actors" to incite violence, influence voters, spew hatred or unfounded conspiracies has been well documented. Recently Facebook and Twitter have deleted millions of fake or spammy accounts. As I write this, a well known conspiracy blogger and podcaster has been booted off several sites.

Though by no means solved, an increased focus on their customer's privacy concerns has begun to show some progress. Hacks continue and private data is being sold. But, the spotlight on these abuses means they are going to diminish.

All that got me to thinking of a code of conduct for social media. If the companies themselves and the majority of users of Facebook, Twitter, et al, agreed to some basic ways of using media and interacting with each other, how much more pleasant our online life would be. How much more productive and constructive being interconnected would be.

About seven years ago I had a post about a blogger's Code of Conduct. Blogger, RJ Walters, had his code prominently displayed. As I reread that post, I thought how well such a code would help social media become more civil and encouraging.

I am under no illusion that this way of conducting oneself is likely to happen. I think we are too far down the road to turn back the tide of garbage that washes over us....unless we accept the premise that one person can change how he acts and interacts with others. That one person then influences another to act in a civil and productive manner and so on.

Can baby steps reform everyone? Not likely. But, we can only control our own actions and mindset. We are not responsible for how others think and react, only how we respond.


RJ's Code of Conduct:


I welcome your comments to anything I say. But I will not allow others to use my blog to vent their bitterness. As long as you comment by the code below I will post them for others to see.

• I will express myself with civility, courtesy, and respect for every member of the this online community, especially toward those with whom I disagree—even if I feel disrespected by them. 

• I will express my disagreements with other community members' ideas without without insulting, mocking, or slandering them personally. 

I will not exaggerate others’ beliefs nor make unfounded prejudicial assumptions based on labels, categories, or stereotypes. I will always extend the benefit of the doubt.

While RJ wrote this with his blog readers in mind, it would seem to be a framework for use of social media.


All bloggers decide if they want to permit comments to be left after a post. Some decide the blog is more of a personal journal, so someone else's comments don't really fit. But, most blogs encourage and actively solicit comments...I do.

It is certainly OK to disagree with a blogger. or someone on social media. It wouldn't be very interesting if every comment simply echoed whatever the post was about and agreed with everything that was said. A different point of view can open up a meaningful exchange of ideas and solutions to problems.

But, if you spend anytime at all on the Internet you have come across comments that are downright nasty. Ideas aren't just disputed, but the attacks become personal. Name-calling and denigrating someone's honesty or integrity take place. 

I wish this simple statement of online behavior was one more of us followed in our daily life, not just when on social media. I am afraid the concept of respectful disagreement is being drowned out by the shouts and rants of angry people, fully believing he who yells the loudest and longest wins.

An important belief is extending the benefit of the doubt. That means someone accepts the possibility that he may be wrong and the other person may be right. It means accepting that, as a human being, each of us has incomplete knowledge. We are not infallible.

Common decency, or open and constructive debate are held hostage by the extreme fringes on either side of an issue. Trying to reach a consensus is required in a democracy. For whatever reason those with the strongest opinions are those least likely to grant it to those who may disagree with them.

Is this a pipe dream with no real possibility of happening? Probably, but doesn't everything start with just one voice?


17 comments:

  1. It is a shame to have to even consider a code of conduct for social media. How about just common courtesy, decency we should all consider every day.

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    1. We shouldn't have to have this discussion at all, but we do.

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  2. Hi Bob! As a fellow blogger I appreciate your thoughts on this (and all posts really). I too think it would be wonderful for us all to follow a code of decency that included all the positive points you make in this post. However, like you, I occassionally get "trolls" trying to leave nasty and derogatory comments on my blog with the obvious intent to belittle, insult or generate outrage. They nearly always drop into my "moderation" folder and if I think they do nothing to further honest discussion I simply delete them. Like you, I don't mind disagreement but I will not tolerate nasty. I can't help but believe that much of this nastiness comes from the anger so many people feel these days with no way to communicate it other than spew it out on SM. I also think that something that encourages it is the anonymous aspect of being online where you can throw out nasty and hateful words with little repercussion (most people would never dare to do it in public!) On the other hand, I do think there are those like you (and I hope me) who serve as a positive example of how we can address disagreement without being disagreeable or disrespectful. It has to start somewhere right? ~Kathy

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    1. How about we all concentrate on a social code of contact. Common decency is needed in more places than just social media.

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  3. In an ideal world such a code would not be necessary, it would just be the norm. But the downhill trend of blog responses started 10+ years ago in earnest, and I fear the horse has left the barn for the forseeable future. This is true not just of political blog responses, where it is most apparent, but also on tons of the financial blogs I participate in, where success in say an early retirement is mocked and ridiculed by those who cannot or will not pursue such a dream. Your site is one of a few, Bob, that civility still tends to reign supreme. Probably why so many of us like it. Enjoy your Labor Day, my friend.

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    1. I do feel lucky that I don't have to spend much time policing what people leave as comments. I know that is not the norm anymore regardless of the topic. It probably helps that my typical reader is 50+ and as such comes from a different environment.

      Betty and I are enjoying the cooler weather of Portland for a week around Labor Day weekend. I trust you and Deb are making the most of the beauty of Tennessee at this time of year.

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  4. I have to say, I haven't had many trolls that had to be blocked but, I've made clear I won't accept mean behavior. If someone new posts on my blog I have to moderate, so that's where the final decision is made. You are not going to bully me online. As for FB, I block people there, too. I have a twitter acct. but don't use it much at all. I also have an instagram acct. but, haven't used it in over a year. So, maybe keeping it down to a couple of social media sites is an easier way to go. Sadly, the leadership in our country has lowered the bar almost to the ground and that created the trolls we have to block. I am trying to remain optimistic that this group of mean and ignorant people will have to crawl back under their rocks soon.
    b

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    1. I'm afraid I agree with Chuck that the nasties aren't likely to crawl back into their holes unless those who operate sites like Twitter take more responsibility for what is posted.

      I received an email about a new discussion site that is built around constructive conversations. I plan on checking it out once we return home. If it is as promised, I will mention it on the blog.

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  5. Pauline in Upstate NYMon Sep 03, 01:15:00 PM MST

    Would that our political leaders would take this message to heart and start setting an example in this! Unfortunately, we all just said a sad farewell to one who did his best to keep this country’s political discourse tolerant. I can only hope that there are a few like him still in office.

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    1. I will never forget Mr. McCain's response to the hateful person who was verbally attacking Mr. Obama during an appearance by John. His immediate shutdown of her comment spoke volumes about the type of person he was. The traits of personal courage and respect that he showed seem to be missing from virtually everyone in Washington.

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  6. I have found that it is not that hard to limit my exposure to the uncivil world. I limit face book to few close friends and family (and I have unsubscribed to a couple of those). Haven't used twitter in years, and most importantly I avoid news and commentary on TV. I read a couple of newspapers and check a couple of internet sites. With those sources I have the ability to be selective and filter out the junk. Of course it is impossible to avoid a headline here and there, especially online, but I am not often tempted by the headline. I do like constructive conversations and am looking forward to hearing about the site that you are investigating.

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    1. Since I use Twitter to only promote the blog and podcasts I don't ever have to expose myself to the seamier side of that platform. I haven't watched news on TV (or cable) for a very long time. I think the last time was election night in 2016.

      I will check out that site and see if it is worth our time.

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  7. I always find it interesting that it is the "other person" or "other political party" or the "other politician" or the "other (fill in blank here)" that is the issue with the lack of civility in social media or life...To paraphrase a bible verse " Take the plank out of your own eye before you worry about the splinter in someone else's." It all starts with each one of us and the "plank" in our own eye. We can choose to be a blessing or a curse...I'm hoping we can see the views of others are just as important as our own for whatever reason's. For me I will choose to be a blessing the best I can...

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    1. In the case of much of social media the lack of civility and decency is so pervasive it really isn't restricted to politics anymore. Anyone, for any reason, is open to hate and nasty comments on seemingly any subject. Anyone who takes a position on any issue is liable to get attacked. The ability to "attack" anonymously is what gives these people the power to say anything. It is sad and rather depressing to witness.

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  8. The site I referred to in a few comments above is Kialo. It is a group discussion board on any of dozens or different topics. Responses are placed in either the pro or con columns with follow ups listed below each.

    No one is calling anyone names (so far) and the reasons given to be for or against an issue seem reasonable and well expressed. Even if you don't take part in the discussion, the responses from others make for interesting reading.

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  9. Hi Bob, I just got back from the Rendezvous at Ft Bridger Wyoming so haven't been keeping up with my Feedly list. Thanks for using my "code of conduct". Yeah, if only it was not necessary. If only "Do unto others..." were widely accepted we would not have to put up with this kind of behavior on the net or in the Oval Office.

    I recently saw a PBS show about the fascists that caused World War II. It is amazing how similar the
    social media of that time mirrors our current situations. I have to be an optimist and say we will get through these times as we have so many others. I just pray that it doesn't cost so many lives as the last time.

    To close this out, one of the ways to tame down all this stuff, at least on the Internet, is to have a path back to everything put there. That would make people accountable for their words.

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    1. RJ,

      I'm glad you caught the rerun of your code. It is even more important now than it was when you first wrote it 7 years ago.

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