How do you learn social media social norms?

[cross-posted to my teaching blog]

Most of our social interactions are governed by scripts and rules that we internalize and apply when appropriate. For example, we all have the scripts of “first date,” “job interview,” and, possibly, “the talk.”

How do we pick up the social norms for these scripts? How do we learn what type of communicative behavior is appropriate in certain situations? By observing, from movies and TV, from stories people tell, maybe even from etiquette books and columns.

Usually, it takes time for these scripts to emerge, and it takes time to learn them.

In social media, it seems to me, these social norms for appropriate communicative behavior emerge much faster, and are picked up much faster. Twitter lists have barely launched, and we already have some norms, and “best practices” about using them.

Twitter and LinkedIn just announced their integration, which means we’ll soon have social norms for appropriate behavior there, too. In fact, barely 24 hours later, there are articles with Do’s and Don’ts about it.

So, I have two questions for you:

  1. How are social media social norms created? Do they emerge organically, as we communicate with social media? Are they spelled out so quickly by “opinion leaders” that behavior is shaped by them so quickly that we don’t have time to experiment and figure them out?
  2. How do you learn social media norms? From blog posts/articles? By seeing behavior be reprimanded? By watching others and doing what they do? By being exposed to rants about unacceptable behaviors?

2 thoughts on “How do you learn social media social norms?”

  1. This is a good question. In social media consulting I’ve done, the biggest detriment to the uninitiated as far as starting to use socmed resources is that they don’t know what is acceptable or expected of them.

    I think in all types of social learning, immersion is the truest education. It’s true that you can read guides and other people experiences, but you don’t really learn until you jump in and start. I think that older people especially have a problem with this kind of participatory learning compared to younger generations. I believe this is representative of relative “non-serious” perception of the internet by people who have grown up with it.

    As far as the establishment of norms, I guess we have to blame the innovator adoption group to some extent, but the early adopter group to a larger extent. Although, I have seen claims that the bulk of real normative behaviour doesn’t take off until a medium is more thoroughly populated.

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