Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Facebook hospitality

Because I originally signed up to Facebook as part of an experiment to see how it impacted my learning experience, I took a deliberate decision to treat it as a melting pot. This is less true of other spaces my great big digital feet tread. For example: I have two blogs (well, three, but we won't go into that third one right now), and I address two completely different groups of people. In my mind, I am writing for a person, an archetype, if you like. On this blog, you're it. On the other, it's someone else entirely. While I have LinkedIn contacts who are personal friends, I look on that as a purely professional space, and use it to pursue purely professional interests. I have two separate Twitter accounts: one for personal and eclectic bits and bobs, the other for learning-related contributions.

By contrast, my Facebook friends include people from my youth, people from my career path, people from my church, people from my leisure pursuits... and people that I've 'met' on Facebook, of course. And it has been fascinating to watch them interact with one another in reaction to something I've posted on my page.

But one thing has come home to me with a vengeance this past week, and that has to do with hospitality and the respect or abuse thereof.

My husband and I are rather hospitable souls who enjoy nothing more than having a house full of people to feed. We head up a team called Connect in our local church, where we take it upon ourselves to meet anyone new to the church and find out a bit about them. We then introduce them to other members of the congregation who share their interests or who are at a similar life stage. If you know me in person, you will know how perfectly suited I am to this role. The initial meeting with new folks happens in a small room off the main hall, where we serve coffee/tea and something to nibble... something I have baked myself. We like to treat people as if they are our guests.

We then take this one step further. Once a quarter or so, we host a dinner (a very informal dinner, mind) at our home, to which all recent visitors to the Connect room are invited, together with a few likely candidates for them to get to know. Once again, we have the host/guest thing going on.

But what has this got to do with Facebook, I hear you ask. Well, rather more than I would have thought, actually.

You see, I wouldn't expect the guests in the Connect room to be rude to us or to one another. I wouldn't expect visitors to my home to pick a fight with one another. Disagreement is fine, but healthy, respectful conversation is not an unreasonable expectation, I would have thought. And I feel the same about my Facebook page. After all, it is my Facebook page, and if you're there, you're there at my invitation. As my guest if you like. As I am, when I visit your page.

Recently, I felt I had to 'unfriend' someone I've known for more than 30 years. For the too-many-eth time, she mounted an aggressive, irrational attack on someone else on my page. Someone who didn't know who she was and who was too polite to retaliate in kind. She threw out insults left and right, many in shout-implying capital letters. She even took a few side-swipes at me.

Now, I don't want people being reluctant to come to my home because they're afraid my dog might attack them, or because they're afraid that X person will also be there. Similarly I don't want people being unwilling to comment on my Facebook posts for fear that one of my other friends will tear into them.

I love introducing people to people. I love to see those people form a new relationship that is independent of me. But if some of those people cannot respect my hospitality, I have to withdraw the invitation.

Not so?


The upsycho said...

@Jago Sterkte! That isn't going to be easy. Perhaps you could send him a private message, or take him gently to one side and have a quiet word?

Some people are simply socially inept and rely on the guidance of others as to what constitutes appropriate behaviour.

On the other hand... maybe he has a crush on you ;o)

Views from Malmesbury said...

Guilty and ashamed.

I'm sorry to say I've been guilty in the past along these lines. I'm not a computer literate person and when I was first shown emailing at work it didn't register that capital letters were the equivalent of shouting, I just viewed it as a sort of 'accent/highlight/emphasis/indicator of importance' like headings or bold in a written letter. I was soon put right - the recipient, a higher up in the company, used humour so I wasn't totally humiliated. The other thing was when I first discovered blogging. I took exception to what I saw as extreme rudeness on behalf of one commenter and said so in my own comment in no uncertain terms. Luckily the blogger (who I've never met and don't really know) was an understanding gentleman who gently and tactfully put me right. Turned out the commenter was a personal friend and they were used to such exchanges. I had fallen into the trap of not seeing other commenters as 'people' because all contact was 'electronic' and impersonal. I suppose this is the other side of the coin to treating commenters as intimate friends when you don't know them. I still find it hard to judge the right level of openness.

Could these people you (and Jago) mention be like me, in need of a little gentle education? Or do you know that they should know better?

Thinking about it, I'm pretty sure I apologised to the blogger whose commenter I took exception to, but I think I'll just go look and make sure. I've since become a regular commenter on his blog and we've had many a pleasant exchange, but just in case.....!

Views from Malmesbury said...

Oh, I've taken so long composing my last comment that Karyn has already addressed the issue, and much more succinctly. Yes, I can see a suggestion on how to react is more helpful than just presenting the problem.

The upsycho said...

@Views Thanks for your comments. You make a valid case, but one that doesn't apply in this situation. I am something of a compulsive enabler - it gets me into trouble at times - and would certainly address the matter with the person if I thought their actions were due to ignorance (and I use that word in its true sense).

I am glad that your experiences of being corrected were so well-handled. If they had not been, you might have shrunk back from the online community and my other readers and I would not have had the benefit of your insights on my posts.

No need for shame. :o)