In an earlier blog post Kara likened writing on Twitter to having a conversation in the pub. This analogy came back to me this week while reading the different responses to the death of Margaret Thatcher. There seems to be a great debate going on between those who felt it was wrong to speak ill of the dead and those who, how shall I say, remained true to the views they held while she was alive.
Tony Blair was quoted on the BBC as saying “You’ve got to, even if you disagree with someone very strongly – particularly at the moment of their passing – show some respect.” What really piqued my interest, though, were the comments that rebuked the anti-Thatcher comments by saying things like “Today someone’s mum died”. Now I can’t imagine even the most left-wing protester being so vociferous of their views if they were stood among the Thatcher family at this difficult time. But do people on Twitter think that that is exactly what they are doing? While many of the comments posted on Twitter this week would probably go down very well in the local establishments of the individual speakers, whether they are in Brixton or Westminster, is it appropriate to voice them on Twitter? Unlike shouting your views in the pub, Twitter is not restricted to those within earshot. Twitter now has over 200 million active users, and they all have the right to tweet, respond, argue and be offended by what they read. So does this mean that Twitter has brought the whole world into our local pub? Do we have to censor our opinions to make sure we don’t offend all those people who could be within earshot? Or does it mean we don’t have to? Internet etiquette has evolved rapidly over the last 20 years and there are many things (SUCH AS NOT SHOUTING WHEN YOU TYPE) that are now so widely assumed that people who do not adhere to the rules are quickly scolded and set straight. In the real world, most social groups’ friends and family members would have more respect than to speak negatively about someone recently deceased. Twitter, however, is a social arena that is still relatively new and it is yet to establish its rules of propriety. If we want to avoid finding ourselves on the wrong end of a viral telling off, we will need to keep a close watch on how Twitter convention develops. The exciting thing is, though, that Twitter’s etiquette rules will be created by the tweets and responses of its members. By joining in the conversation now, we can each play our own part in the evolution of the Twittersphere.
By Ros Conkie, Marketing and PR consultant, KMS Marketing