Online Ettiquette From An 'Insider's" Perspective


I may have mentioned it before, but I have been a forum moderator for going on nine years. In that time, I've seen a lot of good and bad conduct online. Since probably about 9 out of 10 of you have a Facebook account, I'm sure you have too. Sometimes it seems like people like to just 'let it all hang out', thinking they are anonymous and/or can hide behind a computer screen. It's amazing what kinds of things people will say or post when they don't think it will be traced back to them or don't have to actually look the person they're talking to in the eye. I know I've 'erred' this way! While most people don't mean any harm, there are some occasions where it really pays to be cautious. From the perspective of someone 'inside' the online-admin 'world', here are a few suggestions to keep in mind next time you post.

Don't 'over-share'. It's good that you want to share news with the world, but not everyone wants to hear everything. For example, I think it's cool if a friend who has just found out that she (or for a man, his wife) is pregnant to mention it and/or post ultrasound pictures. I do not, however, want to see an ultrasound of a kidney stone. I think it's great when someone who has previously asked for prayer or has had something major happen in their family posts an update, but I'd rather not know how big the tumor was or how long someone was in labor. There are just some things I don't want to read over my morning coffee, thank you.

Consider your audience. Remember, anything that is posted online is out there for anyone to see, and permanently. Even if we have privacy restrictions saying only certain people can see what you post, nothing stops those people from copying it or sharing it with anyone else. Also, if you set it up so 'friends of friends' can see things, it means exactly that; that I might be able to see something from a person I don't know because we share a mutual contact. I guess a good rule of thumb can be this-if you wouldn't want your boss, priest or mom seeing something, don't post it. That goes for pictures, status updates or links. If you don't want forty or fifty million of your closest friends seeing your name or anything else about you on it, think twice.

Remember that there is a real person on the other side of the screen. It's really easy to forget that it's not a computer screen or chat room persona we are talking to, but an actual person. Like I said before, a lot of people will be more 'open' online than in 'real life'-that includes being willing to talk to someone using words or a tone we wouldn't otherwise. I've had to eat my words on a number of occasions. Also, we don't have the benefit of non-verbal cues online that we do in offline conversations, so do what you can to make sure your intent is clear. If you're joking, say so or use a smiley. If you're being sarcastic, indicate so. It takes a bit of extra typing, but it pays off.

And last but certainly not least-

Don't feed the trolls! If there is someone who seems intent on annoying people or who seems to only be trying to push your buttons, don't play along. If someone is bothering you, don't respond in kind. In fact, don't respond at all. Trolls are the online equivalent to the playground bully-they are trying to get a rise out of you and will get bored and leave if they don't. Put them on ignore. There is nothing wrong with blocking or ignoring someone who consistently upsets you. If you think that you or someone else is being harassed and/or any threats of violence are made, alert the site's admins immediately. Chances are it's just some bored teenager home on a Friday night, but you never know. I'd rather you not find out the hard way.

Hopefully I've given you some food for thought. I'm sure you wouldn't intentionally bother anyone, online or otherwise. Even so, you might be able to pass my advice onto someone else.

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