Magazine Writes New Rules For Polite Digital Society In the world of social media, there have gotta be some rules, right? Editors at Wired have asked a group of social scientists to develop etiquette for new technology and social media.
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Magazine Writes New Rules For Polite Digital Society

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Magazine Writes New Rules For Polite Digital Society

Magazine Writes New Rules For Polite Digital Society

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GUY RAZ, host:

Now, in the world of social media, there have got to be some rules, right? Well, how about these:

Ms. NANCY MILLER (Editor, Wired): If you can't buy it online, feel free to BitTorrent. Don't hesitate to haggle on Craigslist. And whatever you do, don't Google-stalk before a first date.

RAZ: That's Nancy Miller. She's an editor at Wired magazine, where the upcoming cover story is titled, "How to Behave: New Rules for Highly Evolved Humans, A Scientific Approach to 21st-Century Predicaments."

And Nancy Miller joins me from member station KQED in San Francisco. Hi, Nancy.


RAZ: We'll get to some more of the rules in a minute but first, why did you all feel the need to write them in the first place?

Ms. MILLER: You'd think at Wired, we would naturally know how to do all this stuff. We...

RAZ: But of course.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. MILLER: And it seemed like we were all a little bit confused about this new world, specifically with social media and the etiquette of the new world around us. And what we found was, you know, there was a lot of subjective opinion on how to behave, but we didn't have, really, one solid approach. So we sort of decided that the best way to go about this was the Wired way, which is try and find a scientific approach, a social science to explain how and why we behave like we do and what makes sense in this new era of technology.

RAZ: And you guys actually used real, live, social scientists to compile this list, right?

Ms. MILLER: We did because what we noticed with other etiquette books that we were checking out to inspire us was that a lot of it was just sort of either opinion or sort of this prim intuition about how to behave, and what we felt like we needed was, you know, some real data. And it seemed to make sense that we would go to behaviorists, social psychologists and anthropologists for ideas on how humans behave.

RAZ: Let's go through some of the rules for a moment. There's one, which is don't Google-stalk before a first date, which means don't sort of search out the person you're about to date on Google. This is almost de rigueur these days. What's wrong with checking up on somebody you're going to go out on a date with?

Ms. MILLER: You know, I love this one because I think this one is a surprise. It's counterintuitive. You would think the more you know, the better you're going to be walking in. But it turns out that, according to the social psychologists we interviewed, is that a key part of what bonds people together is mutual self-disclosure.

So it's okay for you to say, you know, do the basics, find out if the person has maybe a criminal past. But to look any further past that, you're going in with more information than you probably need, and it's going to sort of make an imbalance between you and that person.

RAZ: Well, what if you're straightforward with them, and they tell you something on the date, and you say, oh, yeah, I knew that. I read about you on Google.

Ms. MILLER: See, now, I think that's the dilemma. So the dilemma is if you say, oh, yeah, I knew you did that, I saw that on Google, then you look creepy. And then if you don't - but if you don't and you did Google them and then you lie, and they're telling you things about themselves that you already know, then you sort of look insincere.

RAZ: Or then you are creepy.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. MILLER: You are creepy, and the key point of when you're going, especially with a date on someone, you don't want to be creepy. So less is more on this one.

RAZ: All right. This is another one. It says don't blog or tweet about anything with more than half a million hits. That means I shouldn't tweet about "Chocolate Rain" or Oolong, the pancake rabbit.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. MILLER: Yeah, and this is one of those things where, you know, there's a certain moment in time, and it's - well, someone described it to us as the velocity of adoption.

So there's a certain moment where there's a build of a trend, let's say the Justin Timberlake video or something that has about a three-day to a weeklong window. I mean, it depends on how much time. But the velocity of adoption means that there's a certain moment where it's okay to forward. But we tracked that at half a million views or half a million hits, it's done.

RAZ: Nancy, what's your favorite rule?

Ms. MILLER: I think that the one I really liked was friend your boss but not your boss's boss, and follow them both on Twitter. And what I liked about this one is that this is sort of, you know, we're following cues from the primates here and this sort of sense of hierarchy within the orangutan and primate world.

Your immediate boss is your sort of power protector, but the boss's boss, that's almost too high up for you. So there's a certain moment where that might actually be kind of threatening - or at least threatening to the giant ape that is your boss or your boss's boss.

(Soundbite of laughter)

So you can follow them, but don't expect to, like, friend them. That's just too many levels - too high up in the hierarchy.

RAZ: Nancy Miller is an editor for Wired magazine. The August cover story is called "How to Behave: New Rules for Highly Evolved Humans," and it hits newsstands on Tuesday. We also have a link at to all of the rules, which also include: Never broadcast your relationship status, and never BCC - that's blind carbon copy - anyone.

Nancy, thanks for talking with us.

Ms. MILLER: Thank you, my pleasure.

RAZ: And I won't tweet about it, but you've got to check out Oolong the pancake rabbit.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. MILLER: You caught me. I'm happy to check that out. Thanks for looping me in.

(Soundbite of music)

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