I posted an off-color cartoon. On Facebook. For all the world to see.
I didn’t mean to be inappropriate. But in my naiveté, I glimpsed a cute cartoon and shared it never seeing the double-meaning behind the words.
Within seconds, the scathing comments were flooding in.
With life moving at the speed of light, I had plopped down, opened mouth, inserted foot, hit send and walked away.
I’m not alone.
Words That Wound
Tacky jokes. Snarky comments. Hurtful words.
I read them all the time. In emails, on Facebook and everywhere online. Things we would never say out loud are daily aired on the Internet for everyone to see.
We don’t mean to hurt others. But unfortunately, we do. Face it, they didn’t teach Internet Etiquette back when we were in school.
As you can tell, I’ve learned a few lessons the hard way, and I’d love to save you some embarrassment and time. So, here are 10 simple rules to help you bring your best manners online.
10 Internet Rules You May Be Breaking
1. Reread everything — Rewind and reread your words before you launch them into the air. It takes time, but there is no “unsend” button on your computer. I’ve looked. An ounce of Internet prevention is worth a pound of cure.
2. Reply promptly — In this fast-moving world people expect a prompt reply. Respond within 24-48 hours of receiving each request.
3. Never ignore — Never leave your sender dangling out there in cyberspace wondering if they’ve been heard. Even if you can’t help them, let them know, so they can find someone who can.
4. Avoid politics — Why offend your potential clients before you’ve even met? Avoid venting online about your least favorite politician.
5. Stay positive — In difficult or complex situations, typed remarks are easily misunderstood. Speaking in person or over the phone is the better way. When things get tough, handle it offline.
6. Give more than you get — Visibility is the new online currency. Comment on other people’s blogs, like their Facebook posts and pass on a link to their material. Be sure to give more than you take.
7. Keep it real — While you don’t want to air all your dirty laundry online, risk being vulnerable from time to time. Occasionally asking for help or prayer builds relationships.
8. Take initiative — Social media and email have trained us to be reactive. When we see a post from a struggling friend, we respond with prayer. When that frantic email comes, we reply with care.
But days later, when that person doesn’t reach out again, out of sight becomes out of mind.
Be proactive in your virtual friendships. Write down other’s concerns so you can continue to pray for them and check in with them long after their first post in your newsfeed has passed.
9. Set Limits — It’s not good for you, and it’s not good for others to put too much pressure on an online relationship. Neither Facebook messaging or frequent emails can replace what coaching over the phone or in person can do. So don’t try; both of you will be disappointed.
10. Remember there’s a person on the other side of the screen — Emails and online messages aren’t tasks piling up on your plate, they are words from precious human beings made in the image of God. Handle with love and care.
Have you accidentally broken one or more of these etiquette rules? I know I have.
Remember the off-color cartoon? I removed the cartoon immediately upon discovering what I had done and posted a profuse apology on my Facebook page.
Thankfully, my virtual friends were quick to forgive. My guess is that yours will be as well.
Haste makes mistakes, and virtual relationships take time. Proactively schedule time for your online relationships each day so you don’t see them as an interruption but a blessing in your life.
It’s Your Turn
Are there any Internet etiquette rules I’ve missed? What irritates you? I hope you’ll share so that we can all learn and grow.