This post is going to include a fair amount of opinion, which I try not to be in the regular habit of dishing-out to the general public,especially online. But after a lot of disturbing reading on the internet in general over the past few months, I feel a tad convicted to say something about it. Feel free to disagree with anything I say, but please keep all comments civil. It will be in keeping with the theme of this post.
Point #1: What we say online has implications for how people view us online.
This can be our rhetoric in say….a blog? (ahem), any medium of social media, email, you name it. People make judgments about us based on the things we say online. Someone – probably many people actually – will make a judgment about me after reading this, and that’s okay because I know what I am putting out “there” about myself by making these statements. People we don’t necessarily know all that well (or at all for that matter) may read something we write and decide immediately whether they like, dislike, are amused by, or now have an aversion to us. People form opinions of the “online versions” of ourselves that we place out on the vast and reaching expanse that is the internet. Which brings me to my next point.
Point #2: What we say online has implications for how people view us in real life.
There is no such thing as privacy with the internet! If you make a post somewhere, anywhere, it is likely that someone can see it, and will read it! When people form opinions of us based on our “online” selves, that transfers over to real-life, in-the-human-flesh, face-to-face (have I beaten this horse to death yet?) interactions! For anyone who has been following the news, this has specifically come up with regards to obtaining professional work, and employers’ potential access to our Facebook account. I am not writing this post to get into a debate about whether or not corporate entities have the right to do that, but to point out that our employers and potential employers alike look at those social media spots now. Have multiple Facebook accounts? No big deal, people know how to find those. And potential employers will make decisions about whether to hire you based on what they see. Potential significant others will make decisions about whether they can or should date you based on what they see. People can, may, and often will decide whether they want to maintain a friendship or other type of relationship with you based on what they see. The types of carefree, sometimes callous, crude, and hurtful statements that are so often made in online venues often makes me wonder: would you say that in/to a room full of people you know, love, and respect? Everyone has the right to their own thoughts and opinions, I am not denying that; I am simply wondering why, so often, it appears that we feel we have the right to blast whatever we want to whomever we want on the internet, hiding behind words on a screen, when often we may not speak to someone that way in “real life”? It can, and does, effect the way that people see you when they see you in person. Which brings me to my final point.
Point #3: “Conversations” (and I do mean those quotation marks here) that occur online should only include comments that you would actually say to someone in real life.
I am of the opinion that online conversations do not really constitute actual conversations. And here I do mean through any online venue, you name it. I say this of course wondering what types of comments I will receive and being happy to respond to them, but even still, I would not consider the back-and-forth commenting “real” conversation. There is no presence of tone, inflection, body language, facial expressions, or any of the qualities that make human interaction so beautiful. However, I do not think that the absence of these elements is reason to conduct ourselves in any way other than how we would in real life. If you would not chastise someone and call them ignorant (a random example, I am not pulling this from anywhere specific) to their face, why do it online? I strongly believe that we should behave online in the way that we conduct ourselves during the rest of our life. Otherwise, what version of yourself are you putting out there, and is that how you want people to perceive you?
What we do and say on the internet has implications for the other areas of our lives. I think we would all do well to remember that. My hope is that people will treat themselves and others better as a result.