Photo Credit: Debrett’s
I’ve been thinking recently, what links Dickens, Twitter, Christmas and Cyclocross ? for me it’s etiquette which is something I’ve been musing on a bit, initially due to me reading some Dickens which is in many instances obsessed with themes on the ‘correct’ way that things should be done or seen to be done. We are also of course rapidly approaching Christmas which is a part of the Calendar that seems wrapped in social mores. Twitter (and social media) is of course a slightly newer beast than Dickens and Christmas but it too has had me wondering about what is or is not acceptable in terms of behaviour or etiquette and as I’ve mentioned before I’m thinking of having a go at Cyclocross racing next winter which raises a simple rhetorical question – are baggy shorts allowed ? (I’ll return to that in a moment)
So these four seemingly disparate things that are going on in my life at the moment are all governed, or not, by etiquette, or is it custom and practice or is it rules? What after all is etiquette ? When I was thinking about this at first I first thought of rules, but rules tend to be written down or codified. The school uniform that has to be worn is a rule, etiquette has nothing to do with it for me so it’s more the unwritten stuff and more than that it’s the unwritten stuff that governs our interactions with each other. If I’m sitting writing this on my own then etiquette does not come into play (apart from how I’m writing), however if I was surrounded by other people in an office doing the same activity our interactions would bring etiquette into play but what etiquette and how does it develop ?
If we go along this idea of interaction being the catalyst for the development of etiquette then every type of situation or group will have unwritten rules that govern this interaction which is quite a strange concept when you think of it and shows how complex we are having to learn and remember the different behaviours depending on what situation we are in. Most of this is unthinking but we notice it when it is not there, think of when you are driving and you let someone into a gap – do they thank you and if they don’t how does it make you feel? There is no compulsion, rule or law in this country that says they have to thank you but the etiquette demands that it be so.
As we form into social groups we develop what we feel is acceptable, we will be governed by the rules of what is or is not allowed but it is the subtle more nuanced issue of etiquette that will decide our emotional response to the interaction within these groups. The world of cycling, like most interests, sub divides into numerous sub sets all with their own etiquette. There are those of course who believe it is governed by The Rules which if you have not read them are a hilarious parody of the etiquette of cycling and seeks to answer the question of whether baggies can be worn when on a cyclocross bike.
Now I’m not a fan of rules particularly and have spent a large part of my life adopting the approach “well if that is the acceptable way of doing something then I’ll do something else” which is not an attitude that has always stood me in good stead and certainly at school brought me into some conflict. As I’ve got older however I’ve developed my own personal values which are effectively a set of behaviour and attitudes that I’m comfortable with and can judge myself against when I look in the mirror each day. I would love to see them replicated in others but that would of course be pointless as it would make people like me which would make the world a very dull place. It does help me however in my interaction with others, particularly in the multi layered and sub sectioned world that modern society now is (and I’m not just talking about the cycling world here). So I don’t really care what you are, I care what your about and I will usually quickly be able to judge that by the etiquette that you display.
It gets trickier though doesn’t it when our interaction is non verbal and not face to face, then the message is so easily misconstrued we perhaps have to think more to ensure what we are displaying is what we meant to display. I remember this most vividly when email first hit our screens and we had people SHOUTING in their messages. Social media (of which I’m a pretty new convert) takes this another stage, Pseudonyms are common place and people have all sorts of agendas and non at all, it feels a bit like organised chaos if I stop to think about it. This blog is almost a year old and I’ve been on twitter for a bit less than that again and I reflect now on whether I was going to use my own name or not and how I was going to behave. For me it was quite easy I was going to use the personal values I hold and look to interact with people in the same way I would in the real world. However how is this perceived by others ? A quick example, if someone follows me on Twitter I always thank them and I do the same if someone ReTweets something of mine. Due to the public nature of the forum however this will mean that everyone who follows me gets that message clogging up their timeline which is a bit pointless for them. So am I being both polite and impolite at the same time ? I could get round that by doing a direct message everytime but that just seems like total faff, or not thank them which seems impolite. Also they may have decided to follow me and not particularly want other people to know that (for whatever reason) and me effectively broadcasting that fact is what they did not want. This has left me wondering how I balance my personality and behaviour so that it fits in with the rest of that community ?
I’ve not read Debrett’s netiquette guide or infact any of their guides to modern etiquette, I don’t think I’m a Debrett’s kind of guy and I bet they won’t have an answer to the baggy shorts at cyclocross question that’s for sure. I am however very much interested in your views and opinions. What do you think the etiquette is or should be on social media and twitter in particular ? What particular areas do you work in or are aware of that have their own particular etiquette – what are they and do you follow them ? What is the view on baggy shorts at Cyclocross ?