When you log onto Facebook, or Twitter, or your social network of choice, there are things about the site you just know. There are unwritten rules that every online community has, and certain rules of etiquette that emerge as the sites evolve. As these networks mature, many of these rules actually get written down by bloggers around the internet. Social norms on social networks are important because they tell us what the community is like and what it values. As you view different networks around the web, you see that they all have their own structure and personality, and norms turn into features that become the fabric of the site. The question I want to answer is: What are the norms on the web and where do they come from?
The main source I want to focus on is a compilation of short articles from Wired Magazine about the new rules of the internet. Here they give a how-to manual and advice for the uninitiated on what to do when you are presented with the web’s stickiest situations (they aren’t the only ones with ideas, see an etiquette guide and more tips). Our social networks are communities, and as we interact more deeply with them, we develop passionate ideas about exactly how they should work, and strong feelings about liking and disliking certain features.
I get the sense from reading these “style guides” that there are lots of inconsistencies between how different people think the networks should work, but certain patterns emerge. The level of trust that a site expects its users to display highly affects the way people use it. Wired recommends that you don’t Google stalk before a date or lie with your Facebook profile image. These become real concerns as social networks become a larger place of daily life. It’s fascinating to see Wired’s take on how to act on the web, and what the norms are, but I get the sense that there aren’t any hard and fast rules.
In my research I’m currently exploring how social norms and etiquette work on sites like Facebook, Twitter, Stack Overflow, and Reddit, and also reading about how real world norms map over to the digital space.
Let me know if you know of any good sources that relate to the topic of social norms and their development in web communities!
Jeremy Keeshin 2012