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Social Etiquette - or Manners and Customs of Polite SocietyThis past weekend I was helping my parents move from their house (which was also my Nanaw and Papaw’s house — where my Mom was raised through high school) into a new condo.  During the packing, they found an old book that belonged to my Great Grandmother Cavanee.  Dated 1898, it’s a 500 page tome detailing the important points of social etiquette.

Here’s an excerpt from the book;

The following Rules, published some time ago as a receipt for that beauty of expression so much more lasting and attractive than mere beauty of feature, were written originally for the guidance of woman, but they are equally applicable to the needs of man.

  1. Learn to govern yourself and to be gentle and patient
  2. Guard your temper, especially in seasons of ill-health, irritation, and trouble, and soften it by a sense of your own shortcomings and errors.
  3. Never speak or act in anger
  4. Remember that, valuable as is the gift of speech, silence is often more valuable.
  5. Do not expect too much from others, but forbear and forgive as you desire forbearance and forgiveness yourself.
  6. Never retort a sharp or angry word. It is the second word that makes the quarrel.
  7. Beware of the first disagreement.
  8. Learn to speak in a gentle tone of voice
  9. Learn to say kind an pleasant things when opportunity offers.
  10. Study the characters of those with whom you come in contact and sympathize with them in all their troubles, however small.
  11. Do not neglect little things if they can affect the comfort of others in the smallest degree.
  12. Avoid moods, and pets, and fits of sulkiness.
  13. Learn to deny yourself and prefer others.
  14. Beware of meddlers and tale-bearers.
  15. Never charge a bad motive, if a good one is conceivable.

Interesting, yes?!  Now, let’s fast forward 122 years and apply these same concepts to online social interaction.  I’ll try to digest them to a more succinct list:

  1. Be nice (yes, there’s a reason I put this one first)
  2. Don’t knee-jerk emotional responses.  Wait a beat before pushing that ‘post’ button.
  3. Listen first.  Get to know the network before you jump in like a bull in a china shop. Learning the tone, approach, nature and nuances of a social network is vital before participating in the same.
  4. Be positive whenever you can.  Even in heated discussions, it’s easy to be mean when you’re protected by a veil of anonymity or electronic-distance.
  5. When others are trolling and flaming, don’t join the fray.  If you ignore the trolls, they usually go away.
  6. You’ve all encountered the online jerk (if you haven’t, go read a handful of comments on YouTube).  Don’t be that guy/girl. Ever.

What have we learned?  Being nice is timeless.  Thanks to my Great Grandma Georgia Hoover for keeping this book on her shelf and allowing us a peek back in time.

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