Civilised behaviour in decline on the internet
It seems to me that anonymity and the emotional detachment of typed communication lead to a decline in basic civilised behaviour. The dark side of the web is evident, such as two recent examples I have come across.
Australian David Thorne uses the web and email to troll, to annoy, and apparently to amuse a large number of readers. The fact that he is quite cruel about it at times is irrelevant. On the web, novelty is all. Because we don't get to see the other side of the story, we all laugh along. If he behaved this way face to face he'd be labelled a pillock.
Or take the poor woman at a recent conference who had her big moment as a presenter totally destroyed by bitchy snide people playing with the new toy of the "Twitter back-channel". Personally I think they should have their Twitter shoved up their back channel. [More examples here]
The Crowd is not displaying much Wisdom. In fact it is displaying adolescent abandonment of basic human courtesies.
[Moved up from comments:
Most speakers are nervous and exist in a fragile equilibrium during their presentation. When things go wrong only the most relaxed speakers can pull up.
If a dancing clown appears on stage in the middle of your presentation and constantly hurls abuse at you, it's not your fault if your presentation goes downhill from there. If he then abuses you because of that decline it won't help things.
If we want to only go to hear slick professional speakers and stand-up comics then fine, but if we want to hear thought-leaders and high achievers then we have to treat them with kindness and respect, whether or not they are the flashest speaker on the planet. Many many people have valuable things to say but are nervous in front of a live audience. they deserve respect and patience to allow them to present.
Imagine if a certain group of people decided it was socially acceptable to throw things - the number of people willing to speak would drop. This will have the same effect. i don't have a problem with people twittering during a presentation (though I think they do themselves a dis-service). I do have a problem with it being projected so that the whole crowd responds to it in unison. And I do have a problem with supposedly mature adults descending to a pack mentality and/or childish rudeness as a result.
And to all the people who were involved in any twitter pack-attack on a speaker, I'd like to see you get up there and do better under those conditions, assholes.
It ought to be a speaker's choice to have a back channel fed live for some reason - the default is not to have it. I for one will not present in front of a live backchannel. I see it as no different to people talking to each other during my presentation or having a magic show going on behind me.
I've worked for one of the less popular corporates. That should not diminish my rights as an individual, as a human being, to basic common courtesy, and if I'm brave enough to get up in front of a big audience one basic courtesy is to pay attention and to be supportive.
It seems to me that the audience will get more value from a presentation by actually thinking about what the speaker is saying and considering the implications instead of multithreading. Twitter is like electronic attention-deficit-disorder - it diminishes the experience (and the learning retention) for the twitterers and the twitterees. But if they want to then it is a free world. With a public backchannel it also diminishes it for everyone else too.
In time I assume people will mature in their use of social media just as they slowly are doing with mobile phones. We may get to a point where we can all be trusted to use a projected back-channel sensibly and where it adds to the presentation instead of detracting. Right now i don't believe that is the case. A back-channel has potential to do some interesting things for a speaker who is skilled and prepared and has someone helping. To project it uncontrolled is just stupid, and any consequence is not the speaker's fault. The mental age of any group is inversely proportional to the number (and I reckon also less than the minimum age of the individual members).
Even unprojected, twittering is still going to have negative consequences. As a speaker I know it throws me whenever an unexpected wave of tittering goes through the crowd: once we get enough people responding to comments that the speaker can't see, twittering-tittering is going to make public speaking harder.
I don't know why people can't just sit still, shut the f*** up, and listen.
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