Manners for your social network.
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A few recent e-mails stirred me to consider some tips for politely navigating the fairly new horizons of the Internet. Everything from forums and blogs to Facebook and Twitter are perfect opportunities to forget manners and cause all sorts of trouble. I'll do a quick rundown of some of these situations.
Let's start with the basics. Forums and blogs are outstanding sources for community involvement. At times the information obtained from user experience on technology forums can far surpass anything that might appear in a manual or on a product information page. However, forums and blogs have one very specific thing in common -- the opportunity for anonymity. Most human beings feel that if no one knows who you are, you can say just about anything you want. From racial slurs to name calling, slander, and profanity it seems that not having someone looking you in the eye builds untold amounts of bravado. The feeling that there probably won't be any recourse can bring out the absolute worst in many people.
There is something to be said for getting a point across, but there are a couple of things to remember when doing this. The ones who will be reading your post are actual people with actual feelings. As I have said and will continue to say, manners are about making other people feel important. If you are not treating people that way with your online comments, you should not leave online comments. Writing out of anger can be cathartic, but our thoughts should be constructive and not damaging.
If someone directs a snide comment at you, retaliating will only fuel the fire and could cause the keyboarding slugfest to become a source of stress for you. Take care of it quickly by not even responding. But if you must respond, do so with a level-headed defense that will cool the situation down instead of heat it up.
On to Facebook. Who would have thought that such a great tool could be fraught with so many pitfalls?