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 came 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 you would never say aloud appear daily on the Internet for everyone to see.
We don’t mean to hurt others. But 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.
- 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.
- Reply promptly. In this fast-moving world, people expect a prompt reply. Respond within 24-48 hours of receiving each request
- Never ignore. Don’t 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.
- Avoid politics. Why offend potential clients before you’ve even met? Keep your politics offline and share only with close family and friends.
- 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.
- 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.
- Keep it real. Don’t discourage others by presenting a fairy tale life. Occasionally asking for help or prayer builds relationships.
- 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 the concerns of others so you can continue to pray for them, and check in with them long after their first post in your news feed has passed.
- 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; if you do, you’ll both be disappointed.
- 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 humans being 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 that 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 yours will be, too.