How technology undermines your preferences.

By: William Buist on : 19th February 2016: Business articles, Context, Strategy: 1 Comment

Manners and etiquette evolve over time, in a world before telephones visitors presented a ‘visiting card’, the way we respond to a ringing phone has changed as phoning has become more prevalent and widespread. Early preferences lost, new ones developed. Etiquette is the collective choice of the majority, but it changes, when the context changes.

Technology is developing faster than ever, and the big social networks are adapting and changing so quickly that it is unlikely anyone completely knows what they do or how they work. With that comes a need for new ways of working, approaches, and assumptions. The motivation driving actions hide, intentions are impossible to infer.

Connecting people with diverse cultures, ethos, backgrounds and habits from different time zones and geographies lead the designers of social networks fumbling to find the typical usage patterns on which we can all agree. They cannot. When Twitter announced it was changing the algorithm for timelines, there was a strong reaction. To get Twitter to work our preferred way mean we have to either change our usage in response or accept that it is no longer possible. Either way, it is not in our control.

When Facebook lets others tag you, add you to groups, or chats without permission some get annoyed or even express feelings of violation. These features are provided to drive connectivity, and engagement, the core social element of a social network. They may not be in our control; we may not even understand why they are there.

I am aware that, in some countries, people do business and then make friends, here in the UK, like some others, the opposite tends to be true. Developing systems that let people whose etiquette differs is hard or even impossible. It is inevitable that we’ll come across approaches with which we struggle.

If others can ignore or undermine our personal preferences, it will happen. What should our reaction be? Should we try to change them, their underlying philosophy or culture, or conclude that it is our environment that has changed? It is our choice to take.

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