Banishing Rude Behavior on the Internet

Has the Internet brought out the rudeness in people? According to one Christian Science Monitor opinion writer, the answer is decidedly yes.

“We’re rude and crass and unthinking on the Internet for the same reason it’s easier to blow up people when you’re piloting a drone from 6,000 miles away,” writes marketing expert and journalist Adam Hanft, who is also the coauthor of “The Dictionary of the Future.”

Think, says Hanft, of vicious comments to blogs posted by anonymous posters, trigger-happy senders of email missives, or the rise in cyberbullying by young Internet users.

Psychologists blame our poor online behavior on a condition called “moral disengagement.” Put simply – the further we are distanced from our actions, the easier it is to emotionally separate ourselves from those actions, Hanft notes.

Add to this the fact that electronic media opens the door wide to allow minor disturbances to creep into our lives and many of us are primed for a meltdown, says Hanft.

The author makes a call for the rest of us to call out boorish behavior in an effort to introduce social change, much in the way society no longer tolerates pejorative racial and ethnic epithets or inappropriate sexual comments.

“One way for Internet etiquette to become a new kind of normative activity [is] through the ostracism that comes from exhibiting embarrassing bad behavior,” argues Hanft.

He also suggests several technological interventions to help solve the rudeness problem by pointing out rude behavior before it occurs and asking us to reflect on our actions before we follow through.

One idea Hanft has would be to develop a “Write and Save” feature as part of an e-mail platform. Users could opt into the feature, which would hold emails for a set period of time before they were released. Another feature would deliver a pop-up message whenever one used an expletive in an email.

We think the author is onto something important. If you agree, vow to show better Internet etiquette today. Remember — every major societal change begins with the smallest of steps.

 

Why Companies Encourage Unplugging

Unplugging from Technology

More and more employers are encouraging their employees to unplug from technology.

Does being plugged in 24/7 make for a better employee?

Not necessarily. According to Time.com, employers are encouraging their employees to find a better work-life balance by taking a break from being constantly connected.

In a recent article, “Why Companies Should Force Employees to Unplug,” the online news magazine cited companies ranging from Atos and Duetsche Telekom to Google and Volkswagen,  which have recently adopted measures to get their employees to unplug from technology. Volkswagen, for example, deactivates emails on German staff BlackBerries during non-office hours and limits the transmission of work-related emails during non-work hours.  Google famously insists its employees unplug for portions of their workweek, the better to stir creative juices.

But employers are motivated by more than altruism, says Time. The news magazine noted a 2009 Stanford University study, which found that people who are constantly exposed to electronic information don’t pay attention as well or switch from task to task as well as those who prefer to complete one task at a time.

“There’s no priority structure. Everything is urgent. Everything is red flagged,” Nancy Rothbard, a Wharton management professor, told Time.com. As a result, activities that require a great deal of focus — like decision making or writing — get short shrift.

The ability to focus is not all that suffers from our constant connection to technology. Time.com cited numerous studies showing that psychological detachment is important to employees’ health and well being, as well as stress reduction. This well being, in turn, translates to fewer sick days and lower healthcare costs for employers.

Another study by the Harvard Business School found that study participants who were encouraged to engage in regular downtime while carrying out a high-pressure project reported greater job satisfaction, were more likely to envision a long-term career with their firm, and experienced a better work-life balance than those who did not participate in the study.

These are all compelling reasons employees to unplug and reconnect — and for their employers to support them while they’re doing it.

 

App Lets You Unplug Without Going Off the Grid

Unplug and Reconnect is introducing a new app for the Android that uses technology to schedule a break from technology. It “silences” your phone for a predetermined period and lets your friends know that you are temporarily unplugging from the virtual or technical world and reconnecting with real life. Once unplugging time is over, the app restores your phone to its prior settings.

“The new Unplug and Reconnect app, like no other app available on the Android market, makes it easy to schedule a ‘phone vacation’ or an unplugging and reconnecting event anytime you want,” said Dr. Joseph Geliebter, founder and CEO of Unplug and Reconnect, an organization dedicated to educating people about the importance of unplugging from technology and reconnecting with the people and events that are meaningful to them.

With the new app – which is available free of charge and free of any advertising –Android users can:

  • Schedule unplugging time in advance. At the scheduled time, your smartphone will switch to silent, vibrate, call reject or airplane mode, depending on your selection.
  • Generate an automatic text message when the phone is in “call reject” mode – such as “I’m taking ‘me’ time” – so anyone calling your phone will know you’re taking a break from technology.
  • Automatically post status updates to Facebook and Twitter, should you choose to tell your friends how you’re spending your unplugging time and the duration of the break.
  • Stop worrying about forgetting to reset your phone to ring mode after unplugging time is over – the new app automatically does it for you.
  • Get instant reminders of upcoming breaks from technology that you have scheduled.

Feedback from test users indicates that several innovative features make the new app especially useful. Testers particularly liked the app feature that restores phone alert settings once an unplugging session has ended.

The app is available in the Android Marketplace.

 

 

The Tragedy of Texting While Driving

“I love you too and will do all I can to make you happy.”

Tragically, those were the last words of Emy Brochu to her boyfriend, Mathieu Fortin, texted moments before her car slammed into the back of a tractor-trailer near Victoriaville, Quebec, killing her instantly.

Now Fortin has created a Facebook page (in French) to tell his story, which he hopes people will learn from.

“An accident can happen quickly,” he writes. “I hope every time you look at your cellphone while you’re driving, you think of Emy and those who loved her.

“At what time is a text or an email more important than life itself? At what point is something on your phone more important than the people that you love?”

In December, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) posed a similar question when it recommended a full ban on the use of cell phones and text-messaging devices while driving.

The ban came shortly after it was learned that a 19-year-old pickup truck driver who caused a deadly pileup in Missouri had sent or received 11 texts in the 11 minutes preceding the accident involving two school buses. The truck driver and a 15-year-old student were killed in the accident and 38 others were injured.

Sadly, it seems that tragedies such as these are all too often what it takes to focus serious attention on the problem of texting and driving.