I’m pretty comfortable with the way that I live my life. I am considerate and compassionate. I care about others. I have faults, tons of them, but I do my best to live my life in a way that I can be proud of and, most importantly, that my daughter can be proud of. And I carry those same “real life” values and principles with me into the online world. I don’t see it as a separate place where I can and should be someone other than who I am.
Many people do take on a different persona online, and I’m not talking about creating a character or an alter ego for the sake of humour or art. Some people just say and do things that they wouldn’t normally do. That’s not all bad, being online can give some people that little push to be brave, but sometimes it makes us see a side of people that we kind of wish we didn’t have to see.
I have a few simple rules that I live by online. They have helped me, both personally and professionally to feel confident that I don’t have any online skeletons in my closet that will come back to haunt me.
My Six Simple Rules To Live by Online
1. Don’t say anything to a person online that you wouldn’t say to her face
Anonymity can seem freeing. It gives you the opportunity to vent. To say what’s on your mind without fear that it will come back to haunt you.
Mediums that let you post anonymously have their place and their purpose. Used in a broad form they can be helpful. Sometimes it’s just easier to give feedback honestly if your name isn’t tied to the answers. Although be warned that anonymous doesn’t always protect you if you are out to sabotage someone (here’s a case in point.)
Bottom line – Think about what you are going to type. Would you walk up to that person and say it to his or her face? If not then walk away from the computer and move on.
2. Once you put it out there, it is forever.
What does your digital footprint say about you? Do you feel comfortable with how you represent yourself online? The truth is once you post something online you should assume that it is there, for the world to see, forever. Delete means little these days (another case in point). There are people ready and waiting to catch your rants, your mistakes, and immortalize them. It doesn’t matter if you are a blogger or otherwise engaged in social media as part of your career. More and more employers of all kinds are turning to the internet to see how you conduct yourself. Be careful out there.
3. Don’t share information that you don’t know to be true.
I live with the assumption that at least half of what I read online is not true. I think I’m being modest with that number. And it’s not just random people sharing misinformation. It often comes from sources that some people actually look to for legitimate facts.
I was on Twitter last week while I was waiting for a press conference, in the wee hours of the morning, to begin on the missing Malaysian airplane when I saw this:
So, here I was, actually waiting to hear the “official” news from, you know, actual officials, live from Malaysia, when this headline crossed my twitter feed. Intrigued I read the attached article. Which then prompted me to respond:
A few minutes later this happened:
Now the Huffington Post is not exactly known for cutting edge journalism or the actual dissemination of facts, but they are an online news source and I imagine that there are people out there that assume they have actually done some due diligence before they share “news”.
So, take what you read on the internet with a grain of salt. Don’t get sucked into spreading information that you aren’t reasonably confident is actual truth. And I’m not just talking about false “news”. You can truly hurt people, hurt their families and hurt their careers when you propagate information about them that you really don’t know to be true. Stop, think about what you are doing and who you might be hurting. Think about what would happen and how you would feel if stories or accusations were being passed on about you.
4. Don’t feed the trolls
This one can be tricky. You know the trolls. They are the ones just waiting to pounce on anything or anybody that they think might react, that might give them attention. They thrive on that attention. Let them starve. I know it can be hard. They can be rude and they can be hurtful. Try not to take it personally. They don’t know, nor do they care, about you. Trolls have this insatiable need to be recognized. Don’t give it to them. In most cases they eventually give up and move on.
5. Report abuse
When a troll is more than a troll, when things get truly personal and/or abusive it’s time to take some action. That’s not always easy or even possible but when it is do it! Don’t respond. Just report. I once had an internet bully (and bully is not a term I throw around so you know it’s serious). She would actually search the internet for my name and wherever she found it she would leave vicious comments. I spent considerable time following her, following me, reporting her comments to the admin of various websites and blogs. It was time consuming, it was hard to resist the urge to lash back, but in the end it was the best course of action.
6. Be yourself
Many, many years ago I tried my hand at online dating. I can recall communicating online with one particular fellow that I eventually agreed to meet for dinner. When I walked into the restaurant and realized he was 10 years older and 20 pounds heavier than the picture that he used on his online profile I was done. I didn’t care that he was older and heavier, I cared that he had misrepresented himself. In my opinion he lied. This was not the sort of person I was interested in dating.
Don’t misrepresent yourself online. These things have a way of catching up to you. Be honest, be yourself.
Do you have an online code of conduct that you adhere to? Any stories to share of what not to do?