Skip to main content

Put a sock in it

10th Jun 2015

Ever feel like the internet is getting a bit busy and overcrowded – particularly the social media sites? There are a lot of voices out there, shouting above each other and generally creating a hollow din. 

Remember that saying? ‘Empty vessels make the most noise.’ A bit of a smug adage rolled out by mums in a clipped tone or brusque teachers while rolling their eyes… 

Well those few officious words have now found their perfect home. Simply apply them to some of the comments made on websites, mindless tweets, the highlighting of the universal ‘what’s for tea?’ on Facebook and then the posting of the same on Instagram (I really don’t care if you’re trying one of Jamie’s fifteen minute meals and I certainly don’t want to know what your first cocktail of the night is or to see a picture of the fun you’re having after your fourth !). These are just some of the platforms and topics for the empty vessels that are shouting way too loud.

Okay, bah humbug and the issue of my increasing years aside, I do think that being subjected to mindless over sharing is one of the prices we are paying for this greatest of inventions. When it comes to verbal diarrhoea, the internet has got a lot to answer for and if we don’t nip it in the bud, more of us will be inclined to snap. (I do have some sympathy for the woman in Australia who made news headlines when the constant baby updates became too much…).

The Guardian’s social media columnist, Jess Zimmerman wrote a great article around this subject recently. Extolling the virtues of ‘lurking’ on social media and denying the temptation to jump straight in, Jess recalled the early days of the worldwide web when users were far more cautious and ‘not piping up immediately was practically a requirement.’

In the mid to late 90s, chatrooms required people to listen and lurk for a while, absorbing the culture of the site, which fitted with the technical limitations back then as some sites could only handle limited interactivity at any one time.

Now it’s the norm to ask and comment without listening and reading. There’s a lot more offence caused and many users feel they have to make their opinion known in order to have a presence and to properly participate. As Zimmerman points out, although the internet is providing us with the tools to become more informed before we comment, it’s still common practice to speak first and think later.

A lot of this, of course, has been driven by the rapid rise of social. Some might say it’s the nature of the beast but I stand with Zimmerman in challenging that notion. Being social off-line doesn’t mean always having an opinion and a stream of constant chatter. Being social often just means being there. It’s keeping company and listening rather than a vortex of noise. You’d be kicked out of your offline tribe if you behaved that way in real, live company. So next time you’re engaging with social, try and also engage a little restraint and think before you speak. You’ll get far more from it, and you’ll probably end up adding far more of value to the conversation if you’re just content to absorb it for a while before you go diving in.