Yes, respect still matters even on social media

by Alexander O. Onukwue

The normal maxim you hear is that too much of everything is bad.

People usually summon this quote when it appears that someone is trying to take advantage of a privilege which must not be compulsorily given. The sister to that quote, in the Nigerian parlance is that when you give somebody ‘allow’, they will take allowance.

The culture when it comes to greeting in Nigeria is fashioned in a way that should reflect respect and acknowledgement of status, but some persons, by choice, prefer to be addressed as though they were ‘mates’ with their colleagues. You are likely to find this mindset with persons who have worked in other cultures (or have watched enough Wall Street and Manhattan movies) where the format is to operate on a first name basis. Bosses several levels above one’s station would be referred to by their given first names, without the scruples about titles or prefaces.

However, it cannot be denied that applying that in this part of the world is very much still a work in progress as the underlying ideology behind communicating on a first name basis for persons of different ages will need time before taking root here. Permitting that kind of communication amongst workplace colleagues who are likely to think more like you may not produce the same results when some other class of persons with a different (lower) social understanding.

It is to be encouraged that people should be open to being demystified, assuming less of the air of ‘bigmanism’ that insists on titles. But this will not happen automatically; you don’t flush a cultural orientation by giving people smartphones and Twitter accounts. Social media is the unlimited world for familiarity and free speech, but everyone still sets their personal rules for their spaces.

Like in physical conversations, there is still the need, on social media, to weigh people before engaging them in conversation. Far from belittling oneself or glorifying the patriarchy, it makes you a better communicator.

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