Full disclosure, this post is a rant/editorial piece arising from a situation where someone was recently rude to me on the Internet. Shocking, I know.
Pondering that incident, in turn, brought to mind other online meanies, which subsequently sent me into a black hole of all the times I’ve experienced a lack of what we’ll call “digital etiquette,” and some (self-proclaimed) profound ideas about the Interweb in general.
Ready to take a swim in my thoughts? Well, you’d better be; here we go.
Have you ever commented on (insert digital platform of your choice here) and said something that you would never say to someone’s face?
I’ll tell on myself here and admit that I definitely have. In my defense, I either removed the comment or did my best to patch things up with the person I directed it to.
In mulling this over, it occurred to me that the Internet and all the access it brings has made us paradoxically more connected and less connected, more informed and less informed.
Let me explain.
More connected: The Internet allows us to reconnect with childhood friends, classmates and relatives. We can even get to know people we probably never would have met in the “real world.” It’s great.
I love being able to communicate with pals from elementary school, relatives who live across the country, and friends and family who spend a lot of time travelling (not to be confused with my friends who do a lot of time travelling, who are rarely on social media).
Less connected: How familiar does this situation sound? A table at a restaurant is filled with people, all with their faces behind their phones.
Sadly, a lot of the time you don’t even need to look past your own table to witness this phenomenon. It’s almost like no one knows how to have a conversation with the people in front of them anymore.
More informed: When I was young, and I’m totally dating myself here, we had to go to the library and dig through a set of encyclopedias or the card catalogue to get information.
Now, the Internet puts the collective knowledge of Earth at our fingertips and allows us to find the answer to just about any question – for instance, “what’s a card catalogue?”
Less informed: If it’s on the Internet, it must be true, right? Well, if you believe that, I’ve got some magic, all-natural boner pills to sell you. But seriously, there’s so much misinformation out there, we can almost always find something to support just about any assertion, regardless of how ridiculous it is.
By the way, did you know the moon landing was faked?! Don’t believe me? Google it.
Anyway, back to my netiquette “rant.”
Listen gang, just because you don’t have to look someone in the eye doesn’t give you license to say whatever pops into your brain. Consider that tone and body language are not seen in the digital arena and what is meant to be sarcastic or a joke can seem just plain nasty.
And all too often what gets shared digitally is NOT a joke, but instead actually a purposefully hurtful and cowardly attack or judgment on someone. You likely can’t take it back once it’s out there for all to see.
How about exhibiting some good old-fashioned common sense and humanity? First of all, don’t lose sight of the fact that you’re talking to a human being, presumably with feelings.
Second, employ the Wall Street Journal rule, which states that you shouldn’t say anything (digitally or otherwise) that you wouldn’t want to see on the front page of the Wall Street Journal.
I bet right about now you’re asking yourself, “How does this relate to my business?” Great question!
You are a representative of your business and whether you are commenting/posting as your business or yourself, it can reflect poorly on your brand. I’m not saying to censor yourself, but realize that your comments can have repercussions.
Take for example the now infamous example of Amy’s Baking Company. Long story short, Amy’s was involved in a very public feud with pretty much everyone not named Amy’s Baking Company over their actions on a national TV show.
To say that the way they handled the incident was not very good would be an understatement on par with calling Pol Pot “kind of a jerk.” In fact, it was so bad that the bakery was out of business less than two years later.
To close this rant out, always ask yourself if you really want to post that comment or share that opinion online for all to see. Do you have all the facts? Can any good come from making the comment? Would you be ok with it being seen on the cover of the Wall Street Journal?
Just remember to pause and think before you share. Being in the practice of exercising digital etiquette is always a good idea.