With our ever changing digital world our attention spans are shrinking and are producing what Howard Rhinegold characterizes as “butterflying from topic to topic.” Yes it can be fun to “feel” like we are gaining vast amounts of information as we go from topic to topic on our news feeds and read outrageous comments posted by users, but it just isn’t real; we are selling ourselves short.
Infographics, 140 character tweets, 500 character YouTube comments, emoji’s that stand in for responses, and the instant gratification we get with clicks are all ways we are short cutting our output and our intake. As a society, we have become impatient and easily annoyed when we have to wait. We expect everything at the speed of lightning. Lashing out and spewing disrespectful rhetoric about race, politics, religion and sex is so easy and it often gains attention. Many are ready and willing to state their opinions on social platforms no matter what the consequence may be.It has become easier than ever to insert an emoji and respond quickly instead of having a discussion of differing opinions. Unfortunately this type of shortcut paired with impatience has weakened our ability to have civil conversations in person or online. But really, what can we do? The internet is here to stay and information will not slow down because its speed can seem rude. The only thing we can control is how we do or do not respond to things. The next time you read something that offends you, stop and ask yourself, “Does this really affect me?” Be honest and if it is not going to ruin your reputation, your income or love life; let it go. After you formulate your digital communication, reread it with the sweetest, most polite tone you can muster. If it comes off as snide, rude or curt – rewrite it. This also applies to reading something that seems written with anger or hostility – reread it. You might find a different message altogether.
If you are involved in a conversation and the banter is going downhill, try to steer it back on topic or make a quick exit. If you strongly disagree with someone or see that they are making a fool of themselves, reach out to the individuals through private messaging. The person may be totally unaware of how their message is coming across. The etiquette of please and thank you is waning in technology today. As you go forward in your daily postings and responses, keep your dignity and your digital footprint in mind.