It has been a difficult week to be an active online participant. There has been so much hate spewed by so many about so much, that I have honestly begun to question whether or not this great social media experiment that billions of us have signed on for is actually worth it. I am all for the free exchange of opinions and ideas, but I have reservations when that careful, cool, and considered debate turns into something darker and more sinister. It isn't just on social media sites. Check out the comments section of any newspaper, magazine, or blog and you will find a litany of venom spewing from all sides of a dispute. And this crap is just the stuff that has made it through the moderators. Imagine what gets filtered?
I have given much thought to online etiquette and why our discourse has become so very toxic and I have developed my own personal filters to weed out the miscreants. Here are some basic tips for commenting, posting, or sharing online. I am calling it Step Away From the Keyboard If...
Step Away From The Keyboard If....that which you are about to share comes from a blog, "news organization", or media site that you have never heard of before or has no attributable source. The chances are if it has a funky name, it is spewing bullshit.
Step Away From The Keyboard If....you might share a meme, photograph, or photoshopped image that has no viable attributable source.
Step Away From The Keyboard If....you don't feel comfortable posting under your own name. If you feel that you need a pseudonym or handle in order to feel safe or comfortable with your words, I can almost guarantee that what you are about to post isn't worth it and probably shameful.
Step Away From The Keyboard If....you are about to share a meme, photograph, or photoshopped image that comes from somebody with a pseudonym or handle you are unfamiliar with. The chances are, that it emanates from bullshit.
Step Away From The Keyboard If....you are thinking about posting on a friend's Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram page with angry, contrary, bigoted, and expletive-laden opinions that are certain to anger your "friend". Discussion and discourse are fine. Hostility and venom are not.
Step Away From The Keyboard If....you are thinking about sharing an email that has a chain of hundreds of thousands of names, comes from an undisclosed recipient, or arrives from an address that you are unfamiliar with. Chances are....bullshit.
Step Away From The Keyboard If....you would never consider saying the things you are about to post in a face to face conversation.
Step Away From The Keyboard If....you have given less than five minutes of thought to that which you are about to post or on that which you are about to comment. Impulsivity is certain disaster online.
Step Away From The Keyboard If....a friend's post makes you so angry that you are tempted to type a diatribe response filled with expletives, hate, and venom. Angry online debates are a waste of time. Civil discourse requires thought and space.
Step Away From The Keyboard If....you have only read the headline or title of an article and have only skimmed the contents. Context is everything. Don't comment if you haven't read something thoroughly.
Step Away From The Keyboard If....you can't be polite.
Step Away From The Keyboard If....you are uninformed or underinformed on the topic presented. Trust me when I say that ignorance can't be easily hidden.
Step Away From The Keyboard If....you feel the need to use euphemisms like "libtard", "Left-wing asshole", "cu**servative", "right-wing nut job", or if you use demeaning nicknames for the leaders of Canada or the United States. For the record, those proper forms of address are Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and President Barack Obama. Whether you like them or not, or agree with them or not, they are the duly elected leaders of our countries. When you demean their names, you demean the offices they hold. Unless you are a satirist (and trust me none of you are) stop with the name-calling. (I must admit that I learned this one the hard way.)
Step Away From The Keyboard If....you can't address the issue at hand without personal attacks.
I am not suggesting that we shouldn't enjoy our time online, nor am I suggesting that it shouldn't be fun. I am suggesting that we be far more careful about the tone that we are setting and far more careful about the content we are spreading and, by default, becoming responsible for. These are just a few gentle reminders. I hope that by following some of them, we can improve the tenor of our discourse.
One last thing on a highly personal note: If anybody ever posts anything on any of my social media sites or on this blog which I deem to be racist, sexist, misogynist, homophobic, religiously insensitive, culturally inappropriate, or just plain mean that person will be permanently blocked. My game, my rules. I have no time nor patience for bullshit.