Saturday, July 12, 2008

Polite Conversation in Social Media

Note: I started this post about a month ago and for whatever reason couldn't seem to finish it. I worried it would be taken the wrong way, so I struggled to articulate what I was really thinking here...

I've been kicking this idea around in my head for a few days now:

Polite conversation is neither polite nor conversation, discuss.

Aside from the joke rift off of a famous Jewish woman comedienne, I'm serious. In an honest and open community, what topics are off limits? What's kosher to talk about in the publicsphere and what isn't?

Admittedly, I'm not certain I completely understand the idea of polite conversation. As far as I can tell, it's a safety zone where you're not likely to offend anyone, i.e. the talk about last night's T.V. shows, this morning's trip to the gym, coffee addictions and what you brought for lunch.

But why can't people be trusted to talk about religion and politics and the like without blowing a gasket? In my mind, it's really a question of respect when you cut to the core of the matter. Polite conversations assumes that you will take your views on certain matters over that of another. Really, it assumes that people can't be trusted to respect the views that really matters to those around them--because let's face it folks, how much do you really learn about a person from discussing the gym and coffee?

It doesn't seem very social, does it? With all this talk about community and engagement, why do we hide behind the same polite subjects? Open, honest, social conversation should be about
embracing those around you, understand those around you--creating a global village, so to speak.

Not to say that everyone has to be friends, holding hands singing "Kum Ba Ya." I'm certainly not saying you have to like everything you hear in conversations, online or off. There's a time and a place for everything (unfortunately), but these so-called polite conversations are the prenuptial agreement of discourse--it implies distrust.

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