Real Simple magazine has dubbed this week Be Nice On The Internet Week. I like it. I’m in.
Not that I’m not nice on the Internet. I am. I’m very nice. In fact, I am way nicer on the Internet than I am in real life. Seriously. Ask my kids.
Perhaps it is because I have worked in a Web world for the last four years that I am so cognizant of the importance of proper comportment online. Since I spend a great deal of my time watching what others are saying on the Web, I am hyper-aware of my own behavior. At least I hope I am.
Real Simple decided to go this route after doing a survey about social media behavior for its annual January “be a better person” issue. The results of the survey are fascinating, and the editors wrote that “the chatter … suggests that we need to take a stand beyond this story. (During the week) we’ll explore the psychological impact of Net negativity … Visit realsimple.com/beniceweek for full details and pledge with us to think before you post.”
Now, Real Simple is focused on social media, like Facebook, where there is certainly well-documented cases of cyber-bullying that have gone so far as to end in suicide. To me, this idea of “think before you post” needs to be extended to all of online, as even news sites have morphed into the area of social media with their comment platforms.
And sometimes, it can get ugly.
When I worked at theday.com as breaking news editor, a large part of my job was moderating comments. And because I had full view of the back of the house, I knew who many of the anonymous commenters really were. And I was occasionally shocked to find that the worst offenders in the comments – those who posted insults, attacks, made fun of others and were generally big jerks – were in their offline life leaders in the community.
Anonymity gives many people courage – it’s like having that one-too-many drinks at the bar and suddenly thinking you can take on the world.
But even some of those who use their real names online go past the line of good manners and good debate, and I wonder if it is because they are sitting in front of their computers, which also gives one the feeling that you are not really “talking” to others – you are simply typing.
Patch is a news provider, but a major part of its mission and philosophy is to be a community platform – a gathering place where the free exchange of ideas and issues can help people figure out solutions and make changes for the better. A major component of Patch is the community’s ability to contribute as equally as the paid employees – through comments, adding photos or videos, posting announcements and events, and writing letters to the editor.
Not as easy as it sounds, based on some of the experiences we’ve had.
But the in-the-now aspect of news coverage on Patch, and online in general, is what draws me to this latest incarnation of journalism – the fact that we are no longer all sitting alone in our kitchens, reading the news and talking to our pets about how we feel about what’s happening. Instead, we are reading the news and are able to state our opinions and add our two cents immediately – and share it with the world. And the world can answer back! Fabulous.
I always think about posting online this way:
- Would I say it in front of my mother?
- Would I say it in front of my kids?
- Would I want someone to say it to my face exactly like this?
- Will I be sorry later?
Be nice on the Internet – be nice in life. Words to live by.