This week, my daughter is heading onto the internet. She’s officially become a part of the 21st century as she set up her Facebook account today. These are the reminders I gave her to post on her wall. They are not only applicable to Facebook but to any forum, twitter, chat room situation.
1) Don’t respond to or acknowledge stupidity or meanness online.
Yes, you absolutely should defend yourself or stand up for your friends. However, do it by voice, in person. Not only is this a more effective way of resolving the situation, but also responding online will likely exacerbate the problem.
2) Type the way you speak.
You are often complimented by your teachers for your vocabulary and writing skills. Communicate the way you do in “real life.” You don’t speak with an accent. You’re not homeless or living on the street. You’re not a member of a gang. You are not rich. You know how to spell. Type in a way that reflects that.
3) Assume everyone you interact with online is naive and gullible.
I’m not suggesting you take advantage of people, but rather that you assume they “don’t get” pretty much everything. Assume they won’t get your sarcasm or wit. Assume they won’t know you’re kidding. Assume they don’t know what your pronouns mean. And most importantly, assume they’re not careful about their computers. Some of the nicest people in the world, send bad links and spam. Don’t assume they know better – they probaby don’t.
4) Become Snopes.com savvy.
Well, it doesn’t have to be Snopes, but learn how to verify those too-good-to-be-true emails and urban legends. You can find most of them at Snopes, but you can also cut and paste a few lines of any chain-email into Google and you’ll find out it’s validity (or lack thereof) in an instant. Plus, Snopes knowledge is the new bar fact.
5) Remember that your online presence is meant to complement, not replace, your real world experiences.
Call a friend on a phone. Get out and play real basketball or cards instead of virtual games. Be face to face with living people at least as often as you spend time online. And, if things ever seem to be going wrong online, be sure to remember rule 1 and address the issues IN PERSON.