Do you remember those awkward years in junior high when being called ‘smelly’ or another kid saying you had ‘ugly shoes’ really upset you? Do you remember a time when someone insulted you, your family, or something you care about?
There was an instance when I was playing roller derby where a teammate was saying some unpleasant things about me, publicly to other friends and that got back to me. It hurt my feelings, it sucked.
Social Media puts us all in such close proximity that when you post a blog or tweet something about someone, there’s a good chance that they’re going to hear about it. I’ve noticed a few blogs recently where a reviewer or an author crosses a line from objective blogging or reviewing into something personal or catty. If you have something that’s not nice to say, that targets someone personally, don’t put it on a public forum.
Calling out an author because of the way that person looks or bringing a critique of that person’s life into a review of a book is unprofessional, it’s not nice and it’s not a good way to be recognized as a reviewer worth noticing. Authors railing against their reviewers because they don’t like the review and pointing fingers isn’t going to endear them to reviewers or readers. And reviewers are readers, despite what some blogs have been saying. My friend Suzan did a post where she tallied up how much money she spends on books. It was a lot. She’s not just a reviewer, she was a reader first.
It seems as if we have lost the idea of being polite. Social Media puts us all in a virtual face to face conversation and we seem to forget that things like tone don’t translate in a tweet or can come off wrong in a blog. We’ve forgotten how to conduct ourselves in a public setting, because along the line we’ve forgotten that the internet and Social Media are just that. A lot of people use the fact that they can say whatever they want online and never have to come face to face with the individuals they are talking about. We hide behind an HTML page and the safety that it brings us from person to person contact.
That’s not a good enough excuse. Acting out foolishly decreases a persons professional clout. I’m not interested in hearing the opinions of bloggers who cut down an author for what they wear, and I’m not interested in reading books by authors who point fingers at people who review their books and don’t say what they want to hear.
It seems to me that a lot of people need to remember their manners.
- Remember the human. Which is a modern way of saying the old, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” You’re communicating through an interface and sometimes it’s easy to forget that there is a real person on the other side of things. Though I’m willing to say a lot of things to people in face to face conversation, I scale that back online, because you, my lovely reader, cannot see my face or the gestures I make with my hands as I speak or the tone of my voice. I don’t want you to misunderstand what I’m saying.
- Would I say this to their face? If the answer is no, don’t say it online. Rewrite it until you could say it to a persons face. I think about this when I blog or any time I’m going to mention a name online. I ascribe to an honest philosophy in life; if I believe it, I should be willing to say it but the internet is not always the forum for that conversation. Consider what you’re going to say and how you’re going to say it before you commit.
- Everything you write is permanent. It’s the internet. Emails are saved, copied, archived, printed, shared and even blogged. What you say can very well will come back to haunt you. There was a blog up some time ago that after many explosive reactions, was taken down – it doesn’t matter, in cyberspace that blog still lives on. People have copied it, commented on it and it’s out of the bloggers hands now. I feel sorry for that person who posted in anger. They will always have that blog hanging over their head, because they never stopped to consider the consequences.
- Say what you have to say in style. The internet connects us to all kinds of people, and those people have no idea who you are, or what you do. The only thing they have to go on, is what you say and how you say it – in black and white text (or purple or blue if you change font colors, but whatever!). While anonymity is a great thing online, it can hinder you in communicating. So whatever you have to say, think about it, count to ten if you need to before hitting send. Don’t send an email with misspellings, no punctuation or horrendous grammar if you can help it. (Unless they’re your friends, mine understand, at least I think they do.) You don’t have to be perfect, but don’t make what you have to say painful to read. It only reflects poorly on you.
- Never reply in anger. A lot of things can be said online. Tempers can flare when someone targets something near and dear to our hearts, or when they target us. It may feel good to write that scathing email or blog, but look back up at Number 3. Write your reply out, and save it as a draft. Come back in an hour or the next day and ask yourself the question in Number 2. Really think about it.
- Be willing to forgive. We all make mistakes. We’re human, Social Media brings us closer together but it doesn’t remove the human element for mistakes. Things are always going to be said in the heat of the moment you wish could be taken back, but can’t. Be willing to let the water go under the bridge and move on. I had a very close friend for quite a while who started out as a random MySpace friend (yes, I’m going back that far!) He made a lot of insensitive, rude comments on my blogs and I called him on it. We started a huge flame war but at some point we both took a step back and realized we didn’t know who we were fighting with or what we were even fighting about. After a phone conversation, since I found out he lived in Houston and I was in Dallas, we put our differences aside and had a very close friendship for several years. But all because we were willing to forgive one another.
There are countless guides out there to Netiquette and Manners, I’m just outlining a few core things that if people considered a little bit more before they said something, there would be a lot less strife between people.
Have you ever said something online you wish you could take back?