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You probably heard about the newly minted Google Buzz—basically a fusing of Twitter and Gmail—but we want to offer a word of caution before you dive in. It’s got a frightening potential for accidental oversharing, and our online etiquette’s going to make a few changes if we’re going to survive with dignity intact.

For starters, it’s time we all got a little better at saying no.

Here’s why: With the exception of Tom Chiarella (who we like so much, we borrowed his content pic), people aren’t very good at saying no. Nobody wants to be disagreeable, after all. Technology seems to make it even worse, now that the Facebook friend request has set the standard as “accept everything.” Anything less, and you come off looking like a digital recluse.

But that’s not going to work for Google Buzz because the average email contact list is a too sprawling to build a social network on top of. All sorts of undesirables get tossed into the mix—think distant relatives, business relations, bosses, and anyone else you may feel the urge to trashtalk—so if you’re going to start Buzzing, you’re going to have to make a few cuts. That means unfollowing a few minor acquaintances and maybe even excising a feed stream or two (we’re looking at you, Twitter). All it takes is a few clicks, but you’ll need the resolve to follow through on it.

Once you get used to cutting off bits of your digital network, you may find it downright cathartic. Want to join a Ke$ha Facebook group? No. Want to tweet your spending habits? No. If you’re excited enough, you can cash out entirely, but in the meantime, a little discretion goes a long way.

The digital no is a powerful thing. Use it wisely.

—R.B.

CONTRIBUTORS

  • Russell Brandom