Friendships cut short on social media as people get ruder - survey

LONDON Wed Apr 10, 2013 10:01pm IST

A women works with her computer which displays Facebook logos on the screen in Bordeaux, Southwestern France, January 30, 2013. REUTERS/Regis Duvignau/Files

A women works with her computer which displays Facebook logos on the screen in Bordeaux, Southwestern France, January 30, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Regis Duvignau/Files

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LONDON (Reuters) - Rudeness and throwing insults are cutting online friendships short with a survey on Wednesday showing people are getting ruder on social media and two in five users have ended contact after a virtual altercation.

As social media usage surges, the survey found so has incivility with 78 percent of 2,698 people reporting an increase in rudeness online with people having no qualms about being less polite virtually than in person.

One in five people have reduced their face-to-face contact with someone they know in real life after an online run-in.

Joseph Grenny, co-chairman of corporate training firm VitalSmarts that conducted the survey, said online rows now often spill into real life with 19 percent of people blocking, unsubscribing or "unfriending" someone over a virtual argument.

"The world has changed and a significant proportion of relationships happen online but manners haven't caught up with technology," Grenny told Reuters on the release of the online survey conducted over three weeks in February.

"What really is surprising is that so many people disapprove of this behaviour but people are still doing it. Why would you name call online but never to that person's face?"

Figures from the Pew Research Center show that 67 percent of online adults in the United States now use social networking sites with Facebook the most popular while the latest figures show over half of the British population has Facebook accounts.

The survey follows a spate of highly publicised run-ins between people who came to virtual blows online.

British football player Joey Barton, who plays for Olympique de Marseille, was summoned by the French soccer federation's ethics committee after calling Paris St Germain's defender Thiago Silva an "overweight ladyboy" on Twitter.

Boxer Curtis Woodhouse was widely praised after he tracked down a tweeter who branded him a "complete disgrace" and "joke" after a loss, going to his tormenter's house for an apology.

Grenny said survey respondents had their own stories such as a family not talking for two years after an online row when one man posted an embarrassing photo of his sister and refused to remove it, instead blasting it to all his contacts.

Workplace tensions are also often tracked back to conversations in chat forums when workers talked negatively about another colleague.

"People seem aware that these kinds of crucial conversations should not take place on social media yet there seems to be a compulsion to resolve emotions right now and via the convenience of these channels," said Grenny.

Grenny suggested peer-to-peer pressure was needed to enforce appropriate behaviour online with people told if out of line.

He said three rules that could improve conversations online were to avoid monologues, replace lazy, judgmental words, and cut personal attacks particularly when emotions were high.

"When reading a response to your post and you feel the conversation is getting too emotional for an online exchange, you're right! Stop. Take it offline. Or better yet, face-to-face," he said. (Reporting by Belinda Goldsmith, editing by Paul Casciato)

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