We are all online anymore. We don't hand out phone numbers but readily give our email addresses and instant messenger ids. The world has shifted from a direct contact world to one behind screens. We are no longer watchful of our behavior and manners online. I've also been caught up in the anonymity that talking online can bring with negative repercussions on my character and with my Dominant. This online behavior has reached a fever pitch of negative reactions, cruel misjudgments, and assumptions and then outright defacing of people. We need to remember that there are still people on the other side of the keyboard and that we aren't dealing with a name and a number, but a person.
If you've used the internet for social media networking or chatting with people then you know that online creates a false sense of security. We create these other selves that live online and they are separate and unique to who we are in person. Just about everyone does it. It could be as huge a grandstanding and ego-fluffing or it could be that we are so shy that we use online to appear more outgoing and open. Even those of us who try our best to convey an honest perception of who we are, tend to get it misinterpreted. It's a part of how people read others. Having only text to do the deciphering can and does cause flaws in our understanding.
That's just being human, but in this technology forward world, we forget the old world manners we used to have or how to apply them to online exchanges.
(This post is not going to cover the many false personae that people create to hide from others, the sock accounts or the alter-egos that others use to role play. This is about real people being real people.)
So what happens when we are online in a discussion forum or other venue that is harmful to the courtesy we should all have for people?
Stop Making Assumptions
First, I'd like to talk about reading a discussion thread from someone asking for advice. All we get from that person is that they see a problem or they feel they might be in the wrong. They tell us how they feel and from that and their profile they expect us to diagnose the problem and give them sound advice. So what do responding people do without realizing it?
They apply their own assumptions about the situation to their answers. The person may even turn a seemingly safe question into a red flag cry for help because that is what they want to see. How many posts have you read that the answers are all, "girl get out of that relationship, he's a pig, loser, cheat, etc." without even knowing his side of the story or if the poster is conveying the full truth.
We can't honestly give solid advice without knowing more than what the person is willing to offer up to us. We aren't helping them by jumping to the wrong conclusions. What you can do is use your own experiences to tell a tale and hope that the poster asking for advice can see your story as a lesson.
Don't Abuse the Cyber Bubble
You may have heard of personal bubbles in your sociology classes, but it is that personal space bubble that everyone has around themselves. It is different sizes depending on the person and the exchange going on. A similar thing exists online in how close someone wants to get to another and what they are willing to reveal about themselves. Too many times I'm approached by someone to violates my inbox with rudeness and inappropriate propositions. Just because I have a profile online does not give you the privilege to approach me as if I was a working girl. Treat me like a stranger, an acquaintance, please. Because that's who we are. Even though I write a lot about my life online I don't want you thinking that gives you free reign over how you treat me. There is a line and too many times people cross it without realizing.
Remember Your Manners
Yes, I've said it before but we are a community that needs to stand above the rest of the public and show what good manners are. That includes online. Remember your polite behavior, uphold the decorum that we find welcoming and amazing and don't disregard the online etiquette that has been established. It is there to keep online exchanges from turning into tirades or bullying or worse.
Am I preaching? I hope so. Someone needs to get you to stand up and take charge of your online involvement. Stop acting like an ass just because you are online and remember that what you put there lasts a very very long time. If you wouldn't want your grandmother knowing how you behave then you'd better straighten up. Take back the courtesy and rules that used to govern a time without cell phones and wifi everywhere. Make it modern again to be polite.
Thoughts to Ponder
- Think about your most recent time online. Did you treat everyone with respect and honor? Where you polite and kind even if you disagreed with something that was said?
- How do you respond to people who violate your personal bubble online? Could you treat them better? Remember the adage 'Treat someone how you want to be treated.'
- What other behaviors online do we need to be aware of and correct?
Links to Resources