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How to Be a Decent Human Being on the Internet in 5 Easy Steps

I know what you're thinking. Can't wait to see the comments on this post, right?

You know what I’m thinking? I can’t believe I have to write this post. A post about being a decent human being. A post about acting like an adult on the internet, particularly on your social channels. But I have to because as someone who sits at a computer for most of the day, what I’m seeing is not so good. Maybe it’s because we’re in an election year, maybe it’s because people are feeling increasingly discouraged or maybe it’s because it’s really easy to hide behind a screen. In any event, things are hostile. Not only hostile but rude, inconsiderate and downright hurtful.

Is that the world you want to live in? Not me. And while going off the grid is an attractive option, it’s also not super feasible for where I’m at in life. So instead, here are a few ways to be a decent, mindful and self-aware person on the internet.

  1. Keep Calm and Click Through – There’s a lot of intentionally inflammatory content out there. Some folks have built entire careers out of ripping other people apart. That doesn’t mean you need to react to it. Feeding trolls makes them feel powerful. There are other things to read and other people to talk to so keeping moving and don’t carry it with you.
  2. Filter Where You Can, Ignore Where You Can’t – I can guarantee that someone you went to high school with is posting a poorly researched, completely inaccurate political diatribe on Facebook at this exact moment. Here you have a few options – unfollow that person or unsubscribe from their updates. If those options aren’t available, see my previous tip.
  3. Edit Before Hitting Enter – The ability to fire off opinions in rapid time is part of the problem with the internet. Don’t be that guy. Before hitting like, commenting back or reposting something, take a moment to think about who you are in your everyday life vs. who you are online. Hold here for 30 seconds before pressing enter.
  4. Use Direct Messages – So maybe a personal post was more appropriate for Facebook than LinkedIn. Do you really need to put the poster on blast? Probably not. Take a page from Emily Post and write a note and send it via direct message. Your opinion will get through to the person on the other end without making it seem like you’re overreacting.
  5. Be the Better Person – Social feeds are self-orchestrated. We curate what we choose to share with the world – for better or worse. This also means that you’re probably not getting the whole story. Keep this in mind next time you roll your eyes at a post. A simple like, thumbs up emoji or thoughtful comment might be the thing to brighten someone’s day.

Lastly, try to remember that the internet isn’t necessarily real life. That’s happening outside your office, just beyond the end of your smartphone. Even if you make your career online, there’s a big world out there and while the idea of acting like a decent human being might seem trite, there’s a whole lot of crazy happening that says otherwise. Have a nice day and thanks for reading.