Is social media responsible for a loss of basic human courtesy?

By Chris Sheppardson, CEO at EP Innovates (  

If we look at the rather alarming statistics today, stress, anxiety, mental illness and feelings of loneliness are all on the increase – and not just in the workplace.  There is an increasing lack of trust in the so-called pillars of society, in leadership and in institutions generally.  On the flipside, there is also a longing and a growing desire for a return to some of the more traditional values and principles of friendship, community, compassion and care.  After all, we might be running a business but we are human first.

Yet, we find ourselves immersed in a society whereby the decline of basic courtesy is spiralling, spurred by our use of social media and negatively affecting behaviours both in the workplace and in general; and it needs to be reversed.  Many would argue that social media has in fact, assisted in a steep decline of basic social politeness (evident in the growing demise of business culture), with many people instantly voicing their feelings online without giving it a second thought and in many cases, those words are things one would never (you hope), say directly to someone’s face.

Social media is driving people towards the extreme

Many comments posted on social media, particularly when linked to political opinion or celebrities seem intent on shaming or ridiculing people; some are abusive or hurtful, some type out sentences that are frankly unrepeatable. There are some more extreme cases of verbal abuse via social media (i.e. Emily Benn, granddaughter of Tony Benn, who was recently verbally abused on social media for voicing a political opinion) and some less so.  This sort of social media dialogue does make it far more difficult to have any kind of reasoned conversation over conflicting viewpoints.

Social media seems to be driving people towards extreme positions in terms of their viewpoints, it has become so black and white – ‘you are either with me or against me’, which is not balanced or helpful for cohesion in society or in dealing with complex issues.  We couldn’t deal effectively with issues in the workplace by taking this approach, so why it is ok because you are typing words in to a mobile phone or computer?  Another concern is whether we are at risk of heading in this direction in the offline world too?

People are becoming less accountable for their lives

Both in business and in life there is a need to stand up for better. Such abuse online is not acceptable, just as most would agree that it’s not acceptable in person.  Higher standards are needed in business too.  Many argue it is becoming impossible to reverse the behaviours in business, which are declining through increased processes, centralised call centres, lack of customer care or service.  People are being treated as commodities and many are becoming far less accountable for their lives and it seems like there is a link here from a behavioural perspective generally.

Some say that behaviours in the workplace are far more improved today than they’ve ever been, but something isn’t right from a cultural perspective and that problem isn’t getting better. One can almost feel the increased aggression in the air and the alpha behaviours in every day life, which is odd given the increased focus on avoiding scenarios that may be deemed to be crossing the line in society today.  Social media does continue to cause anxiety for some and people have definitely become more guarded and fearful as a generation today.

All aspects of life translate to business and the working environment so it’s probably no great surprise that so many of us are unhappy at work today.  There is a time to say that we want to work towards something better than this.  The need to reverse the damage caused by social media dialogue will happen naturally at some point, but the pace at which that happens can change if we start that work now.

Can we reverse the damage?

If social media is changing our psychology and our behaviour maybe it is time for a change or to redress the balance?  Throughout the ages, society has progressed through the courage of individuals to speak out and an ability to listen to others viewpoints – those happy to take on the rules and to say “I disagree”, “you are wrong” or “I’ve made a mistake” and debate that with a challenging and respectful mind set. We need this approach to human interaction as much today as ever.  If we are to truly succeed in life and business, happiness, friendship, trust and of course, learning from mistakes has to be at the heart of everything.


About EPinnovates (

A shop window for entrepreneurial innovation, EPinnovates has been created to showcase exciting innovations, new products, services, concepts and businesses forlarger companies to discover and explore.  Designed to recognise and support the innovation that entrepreneurs and smaller businesses bring to the future economy, EPinnovates tells stories about entrepreneurs; each has a different tale, adventure and overcomes diverse obstacles, but all are looking to improve business and create value.  Accessing these ideas and innovations can be difficult forbusinesses to truly discover so EPinnovates acts to bridge that gap and help to engineer the future for the better byintroducinglarger companies to entrepreneurs through the principles of trust, community and relationships.

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