A fresh look at ‘Netiquette’

By Anne Collier

Words like “manners” and “etiquette” usually make kids’ eyeballs roll. So it’s important – as we all move thousands of years of social-norms and manners development into our new media environment together – that we keep our children in the conversation by approaching “Netiquette” logically and our kids the avid social-media users respectfully. Like Buck, who has as much to say about human relations as horse-handling. Don’t miss the new documentary Buck about horse trainer and teacher of natural horsemanship Buck Brannaman, and then check out “The Good Hand,” a blog post by my friend Teresa Jordan, author, artist, and horseperson.

What does natural horsemanship have to do with Netiquette? Well, nothing, really. But it has a lot to do with manners. “Etiquette [including the Internet version] has to do with rules,” writes Teresa, “such as which fork to use for salad or how to address the Queen” – and the codification of proper behavior. Such things are of little importance to young Net users – especially rules, right? So we’re not talking about rules. We’re talking about manners. Which also sounds incredibly boring, but consider this: “The word ‘manners’ derives from the Latin word for hand, manus, and refers to the ‘method of handling,’ how we handle ourselves and others,” Teresa writes. “As Emily Post put it, ‘Manners are a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others. If you have that awareness, you have good manners, no matter what fork you use.'” Or no matter what device you use.

What we’re talking about is the kind of awareness and behavior that helps the people around us get that we are there for them, care about what they think and who they are. This makes social experiences and life go better, whether we’re online or offline. This is digital citizenship at the most basic level, and it’d probably be fine if it got no further.

Which brings us back to Buck the horse-whisperer. I love what Teresa has written about him and other great horse handlers she has known: “The ability that the best of the natural horsemen and women possess to work with even deeply troubled horses [or people], transforming fear and aggression into eager confidence, can seem nothing short of miraculous. It has to do with a respectful way of handling not only one’s horse but also oneself – manners, if you will – that is deeply imbedded in the mind but speaks through the heart and the body.” And through the Internet. When we have this kind of “manner” about us, who we really are shines through. Which spells both well-being and success. We don’t have to be “people-whisperers,” just human beings with a respectful way of handling ourselves on life’s journey, whether it takes us online or offline. Because everybody needs a little whispering sometimes, and our children can all relate to that.

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