The "Welborn Protocol" I am


The "Welborn Protocol"

I am filled with tremendous trepidation as I write. I have no wish to stir up controversy, nor should this writing be taken as an indictment of any individual, most especially not the individual whose name is appended to the protocol, but I have long been disturbed by a growing trend that is exemplified in this.

Courtesy and etiquette has fallen victim to convenience everywhere around us. We have young salespeople who are suddenly our best friends, calling us by our first names. In some restaurants we have servers who sit down at the table to take your order, essentially inviting themselves into a family gathering or intimate dinner. The "Welborn Protocol" is the blog exemplification. Throughout history, letters, and notes have been considered private, privileged communication--not to be shared willy-nilly, and certainly not to be quoted, extracted, or otherwise used by the recipient for any purpose without the express prior, usually WRITTEN consent of the individual. Mail is a private means of communication. On most sites that announce that they adhere to the "Welborn Protocol" there is a very obvious ability to leave comments--thus, if a person communicating wished to do so, he or she could leave a public communication for everyone to see. The privacy of an e-mail should be assumed as the privacy of any communication between two people not intended for a larger audience. The posting of a notice to the effect that you can be quoted if you do not specify otherwise is hardly a compensation.

What is happening is that traditionally accepted protocols, courtesy, and etiquette is abandoned in favor of the convenience of an author or poster. I have almost never written e-mail to a site that posts the "Welborn Protocol" because I am put in the awkward position of having to say that I think that what I have chosen to communicate privately is indeed private. This hardly seems to be a way to make someone feel at home. Once, in extreme duress, to express solidarity with someone I was moved to write such a letter and was galled at having to say that private things should remain private.

I suppose if commenting services were not so widely available, I might see more wisdom in this. But I still think the better, more traditionally acceptable, and more courteous road would be to ask people to state in their note whether what they write can be shared, rather than assuming that it is so. This seems a presumption that dominates society.

I suppose that as Christians we should hold to a standard higher than personal convenience. If something occurs in a private communication that might make for an interesting blog, why not write that individual requesting permission to share their ideas?

Yes, I know that some sites receive enormous traffic and that this might lead to a lot of work. In such a case perhaps the better part of valor is to resolve that materials arrive in e-mail will not be used under any circumstances. I doubt that the blogsite would lose many of its blogs, and the example of care, courtesy, and true Christian charity and respect for the individual would shine out.

Once again, I repeat, I do not impute any motives to those who adhere to the protocol. At this point it is rather an "Everyone is doing it " phenomenon. But rather than "everyone doing it" shouldn't we be carefully thinking through the ramifications of doing so, and shouldn't we choose not to do so if the message sent is that we respect our own time and convenience more than the persons who visit our site?

One explanation for my reactions, I suppose, is that I was raised with a EXTREMELY southern sense of courtesy and hospitality. The rules were strict, inflexible, and in place for a very good reason. For example, in the south, one rarely launches immediately into business (particularly in a small town) without inquiring about the health and happiness of various kin, etc. Yes--I know the modern age is push, push, push, hurry, hurry, hurry. But isn't that precisely one of the things we should be combating.

To all who drop by who presently use the protocol, I respectfully ask that you carefully consider it in the light of traditional values and what it is really accomplishing for you. I don't ask that you change it, that would be intrusive, but I do beg that you consider what implications it has, and what it says about the value we place on people. If you do not have a huge heavy-volume website, perhaps the protocol is entirely unnecessary.

I expect a great deal of criticism and I sincerely apologize right now if my arguments above have offended anyone. They are not intended to do so, and, frankly, I am horrified at the thought. I present them simply to provide an alternative perspective on an issue that I believe has gone largely unexamined. Every person who visits here is precious in the eyes of God and to me. I pray for the people who read the entries here every day (largely that I haven't said anything stupid or erroneous that would lead them astray, but for their own intentions and needs as well). I want to do the very best I can to respect each person and respect that person's right to speak to me, either in public or in private, and to allow that communication to remain public or private material.

Now it is said, I have done my part and my conscience is satisfied. End diatribe.

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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on September 17, 2002 4:55 PM.

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