Social norms on social media in our blurry to expand that virtual society
Have we forgotten to set up social norms on social
media in our blurry to expand that virtual society?
For times immemorial societies created some socially
accepted norms. The British were mostly known for their politeness, reserved and
overtly formal manners. And even today they tend to stick to these social norms.
The Americans are different as they are casual and gregarious in their societal
norms. The Indian society has always been culturally rooted and hence respect,
right values and decency are considered societal norms.
In India not only the society was divided into four sects, each of the sect had some
socially accepted behaviours. And those social norms were followed so stringently
that Yudhistir agreed to play chaupad the second time also, knowing fully well that
he will lose his kingdom. The reason was that Ksatriyas were not supposed to
decline any challenge.
But whatever be the manifestation, one common thread among all societies was
some commonly accepted social norms of being responsive, courteous and pleasant
in all social interactions.
Our society has changed dramatically since the times of Mahabharata and we have
accepted modification of the expression of these norms even though we are still
rooted. But the changes in social behaviour we have seen on technology enabled
social media just tempt me to dub it anti-social behaviour. On social media, our
self centered and narcissist self is at its peak, to the extent that we just ignore even
the most basic of social etiquettes. Is it the reflection of times we live in or we
simply forgot to set up some social norms on social media in our hurry to expand
that virtual society?
A brief analysis of our own Facebook page will reveal that most of the time
communication is one way; sharing what we find important for us, not what is of
interest to our friend circle. Researches have established that people, who have
greater number of friends on Facebook, tagged themselves more often and updated
their newsfeeds regularly, scored highly on the Narcissistic Personality Inventory
questionnaire. Social media offers these people a chance to self-promote by
amassing a large number of friends, posting about their lives in detail and create an
image which projects social success.
Is social media really a virtual alternate reality that gives us the freedom to behave
differently from offline real world? Think of it if someone walks up to your work
station to say hello to you and you don’t even look up from your computer and
totally ignore her. I can hear a complete no-no from almost everyone. But when it
comes to social media there are plethora of unanswered personal messages not just
comments on your friend’s wall. We have even forgotten a basic courtesy of
saying ‘thank you’ to a positive comment of our wall.
How many times people get into a discussion with friends on a topic of common
interest? Every time we meet our friends. But social media does not reflect similar
behaviour. How interesting would be the conversation if one person talks and
others just nod. In the social media space ‘likes’ are the nods. A comment is what
will fuel a healthy discussion. Sample this – while there are 1.9 billion likes each
month in India, comments come to just 892 million each month on Facebook.
While personalized communication is more satisfying and in line with our natural
social behaviour, users prefer the lazy one click of the ‘Like’.
It is time to build conversation on social media. Moira Burka says that users who
receive composed communication become less lonely while those who received
one click communication continue to experience feelings of loneliness. Aren’t we
shirking away from social obligations to our friends?
Brands operate as social units too. All social units develop a culture of their own.
This culture is a result of relationships that exist between brands and its users.
Values and culture of the brand is formed basis the community in which it exists.
Can brands afford to behave differently on social media? Brands are able to garner
millions of likes in a short span of time but are not able to engage these customers
and prospects to build long-term relationships. It is becoming almost like a one-
way conversation. The result is an endless list of brand followers but hardly and
In the offline world, while it is easy to make friends, it takes lot of effort to nurture
those relationships. With brands too, it is important to build relationships with
people that will resonate with them. Social media has provided an opportunity to
interact with new friends and/or with those long-lost school and college mates. But
problem with digital intimacy is that it creates ties that do not bind but only create
a false feeling of a large social network. And that is where brands can easily fall
Isn’t it then important that brands too stop running after the number of likes but
build relationships, engage in authentic and compelling conversations that truly
share common values and thus last forever? It is not just important to have a long
list of followers but it is important to continuously engage with them. Like human
beings brands too have to carefully nurture and nourish these relationships to
develop a strong social community that it operates in. Social networks of brands
are driven by the same human values of transparency, ethics, responsiveness and
The solution lies in accepting the fact that online is replicated reality of offline
world. Be less focused on quantity. Curate, select and filter your friends and
followers list and truly engage with like-minded ones. Brands should focus in
engaging the people with better, richer and funnier conversations. It cannot be a
pompous broadcasting mentality. Fundamentally, great friendship arises from
understanding each other, so brands too must understand its followers for longer
and lasting relationship. Let us make it one world – a world of friends and long-
lasting friendships whether real or online.
You and your brand do not need to be Yudhishtir to follow social norms but you
need to be Krishna who is always available to his real friends.