If social media has done anything besides shrink the degrees of separation between humans down to about one, it has all but destroyed common courtesy. People who really don’t know one another and seemingly purchased their manners from a broken 25-cent gumball machine address each other as if they’ve known each other for years — as if they’re cool.
And let’s make the distinction right now, knowing someone when you were in 2nd grade then years later connecting with them on Facebook, Twitter or YouTube doesn’t mean you’ve known them since the 2nd grade. It means you knew them when you were in the 2nd grade.
The easiest way to discover that your virtual connections aren’t as wonderific as you thought is to speak out passionately about something (or just speak, period) on the Internet and have someone disagree with you. Please know that I’m not talking about the dark, dark hell that is the comments section of any article posted on CNN.com. But rather the usual suspects: Facebook, Twitter and blogs. Once the disagreements begin or some jokes are cracked about a picture that means something to you, let the fireworks begin!
Almost four years in doing this Internet stuff, I’ve learned to know manage most online scenarios involving people who think they know me or don’t care one way or another.
- When “called out” by an “Internet Gangsta,” a troll who lives to bait and create firestorms, stick to your topic and you’ll never go wrong. You may even create a healthy dialog in which case everyone reading will benefit.
- If you feel offended or if someone is straight disrespectful and you trust that you can manage your response without getting crazy yourself, then do so with tact and poise.
- If things start to get ridiculous delete the offending poster, block them and their IP address…from everything that you’re on. The problem is not only solved, it never existed.
- If it gets more serious than the previous point…well let’s hope it never does.
Sometimes it’s not as severe as any of the situations described above. Occasionally someone will jump on a comment thread and say something that makes no sense, is just plain dumb or because they may actually know you, they insinuate more than you’d like. Is it really your job to correct someone who lives 500 miles away from you and set them straight now and forever more? Do you believe you actually can? As someone who has encountered this with family members, friends from childhood, friends I saw last year and random folks (“Who is this? I friended him/her?”), sometimes I believe the best response is no response at all. And the noise, whatever it may have been, ends right then and there. After all, I’m the one who put whatever out there on the Internet in the first place. Remembering this is the key to staying sane and staying above the nonsense on the Net.
But that’s just how I choose to deal with things. How do you deal with stressful/intense/offensive/bizarre encounters on the Internet and via social media, either with friends, family or “internet trolls”? Are you a poised Internet Dignitary or an Internet Gangsta?