Trolls don't just live under bridges anymore– they've found a great home on the internet. And like many others, I'd like to warn you against feeding them. We've also all, at some point in our lives, been on the receiving end of hurtful criticism– whether on our site, from our parents or best friends, or a stranger on the street.
But every day, more and more of the anonymity of the internet is being lost. On one hand this is great– it means we're accountable for the message we're leaving on the internet. On the other… well, who wants photos of them doing a keg stand in college showing up when a future employer is Googling them?
What's this got to do with you as a blogger?
In 7 signs you may be a professional blogger, I talk about the impact of your digital footprint:
“You see every comment you leave, every tweet you send, as your digital footprint. I’ve seen a lot of nasty comments over the years. Each time I see one I think, “Wow. I have no interest whatsoever in supporting THAT person’s site!”
That comment was inspired by the post I wrote a few weeks back, 15 Plus Size Bloggers Redefining Fashion Blogging. I saw a few ugly and mean-spirited comments coming from the IFB community, and every time I read those comments, I thought, “Wow. You're a jerk! Why in the world would I visit your site if this is who you are?”
Those comments were my first impression of a blogger, and it wasn't a favorable impression! They completely turned me off from visiting their sites, finding them on Twitter, or in ANY way communicating with them.
How do you want to be remembered? What do you want to be your blog's legacy? If you want to leave behind a positive image– the BEST image– of yourself, take to heart these few tips for putting your best foot forward in the digital world.
If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all.
In general people could use a good dose of manners and courtesy. We're all humans behind these computers: people with feelings, emotions, bad days and good, quirks and insecurities. Remember what your momma taught you, and be kind to strangers.
There's a huge difference between offering up thoughtful and tactful criticism, and letting verbal cruelty spill from your mouth. I'm all for sharing what you believe and your opinions, but there's a way to say things without being cruel or deliberately hurting the feelings of others.
There's no such thing as anonymity on the internet: between IP addresses, Facebook, and other logging systems, you can tracked for everything you leave on the internet. If you think you can hide behind a fake email address and username, you're wrong. Be kind online. If you have something cruel to say, say it out loud to yourself. Then move on with your day.
Write once, proofread twice, and think before you speak.
And sometimes you may want to wait 24 hours or more before you hit “Publish.”
We all make mistakes. We all have emotional days, and it's during those days that we make our worst mistakes. We've all said shit we shouldn't have, have been called out for it, or worse, have had backlash that resulted in lots of posts as a reaction to our mistakes.
Time gives us the ability to calm down and to clear our thoughts. While it may seem easy to edit a post once you've said something out of line, there are always people who will screen cap it, and the original will always be a ghost haunting the internet.
You can hit delete, but it will ALWAYS stay on the internet.
Speaking of ghosts haunting the internet: delete isn't the answer. What you share on the internet will always be available in some shape or form, whether it's cached pages of your site, screen caps, or downloads. Those harmless photos of you doing keg stands may be downloaded by friend #853 on Facebook (you know, that dude you met at the bar that one time) and turned into a Reddit meme. (Awkward!)
Ask yourself: “Would I say or do this in real life”?
People act like they can't be held accountable for the things they say and do online, but that's far from the truth.
If there's one thing we can learn from recent American tragedies in the past year– the Boston bombings, the Newton shootings, and the Steubenville rapes, it's that we often present a small part of ourselves online. Don't treat the internet space as a place to speak your mind without repercussions. In every instance above, the social media accounts of the guilty parties were brought into the news.
If you wouldn't say it in real life, to a best friend, your boss, your mother, or that group of people you just met at a party– why would or should you say it online?
It's funny how many of these tips may be common sense, and yet we see the outcome of people's thoughtlessness every day. Who doesn't go to the comments section of Gawker or Jezebel and feel their heart break? Who hasn't smacked their head and thought, “WHY WOULD YOU SAY THAT???” Who hasn't had their own feelings crushed by a flippant comment on their own site?
As bloggers whose goals are to go professional, work with brands, build an engaged community and more, you're accountable for the message you put out into the world.
Make sure it's the best message you can share.
[Image credit: Shutterstock.com]