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Terms of Engagement

Well the bucket challenge was more fun than expected – at least for the Lovely Wife who is now on photographic record of taking undue pleasure in dowsing me. Almost feral delight I think you might say. Maybe this is a new way of keeping marriages together; and annual opportunity to abuse your husband with cold water. Of course, I get my own back pretty much every day by being annoyingly awake and cheerful immediately after getting up, even at stupid times in the morning.

I note incidentally that it seems to be unspoken protocol not to nominate your other half. I can kind of understand that. I did not nominate anyone – that is probably cheating – and in some other cases where the result might be more interesting and insightful than how high you can scream I certainly wood and I did have a list; but in the end I was torn between not wanting to embarrass certain good friends and also offending by not nominating them. I think I’ve told my potential victims privately and they’ve been done by others already, with one notable exception.

The politics of this, the rules of polite engagement interest me. In this social media world that I did not grow up in and is constantly developing, there is not much in the way of accepted rules – bar those imposed by laws and the service providers which are mostly obvious. But there are certain aspects of cultural interaction which are unspoken and unwritten but impactful. The awkward moment when someone at party says or does something that is followed by silence and the nervous checking of watches/suddenly everyone wishing they were somewhere else and had not actually heard or seen what just happened. Fill in your own buttock clenching moments, most of us have them.

But with social media, I don’t know what the rules are and I suspect most people not only do not know what they are but even if they do develop an etiquette I often feel things move on a pace so much that even those who know the game now might be lost to the next evolution.

Is it a bad thing? I am not sure. I think that this is mostly nuances but when you start talking about cyber bullying etc it does start to matter. Sometimes it is obvious and no different from the bullying in the school yard that I and many others experienced. But I am more concerned about the bullying that is within the new rules, the ones I do not understand and if I am looking out for young friends I may not pick up. If I do not pick it up and they do not ask for help, I worry that just by being out of the new cultural loop I am hamstrung from offering the help and support I might be otherwise able to offer.

That said, there is much wrong with existing culture, and the nature of global and constant connectivity will undoubtedly change some things for the better. Communication is an absolute key to allowing us to live together in anything approaching peace. But it is still and will always be a double edged sword. And in this case, if I’m to understand it I need to listen and be prepared to be taught by people much younger than me, because then I can find the space we can work with to make it as positive a set of interactions as possible.

Finally, going back to the ice buckets, in terms of water wastage I think it is a good time to remember we can all contribute a lot more to this by turning the taps off when we are brushing our teeth and spending a little less time in the shower. The latter case even more since as well as the water usage you are using less energy, and while it may feel sometimes that water issues are more local – although, in some senses, they are not – the effects of energy usage are and will be global.

But please do spend long enough in the shower to warm up in the warm water after all that ice…

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