How to Be Your Best Self Online


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.

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18 Responses

  1. Hello There, Jade

    Hi! I’ve experienced getting nasty feedbacks before with my blog… but I learned from the experience and just shrug it off. I mean, I know who I am, what I want to do, and who I’ll be someday 🙂

    Jade of

  2. Hey Mishka

    Good points – Gabrielle Bernstein sent out a vlog on this topic today as well — treat others how you’d like to be treated is a concept that transcends all walks of life and e-life.

    I think when you receive non-constructive negative criticism, you have to compose yourself and remember that there’s just no way of understanding what other people are going through internally. You’ve got to dust yourself off quickly, wish them the best, and move on.

  3. Filipa

    Amazing post!
    I read somewhere (probably on this page) that the internet never forgets. You should always be kind to people and try to leave the best image of yourself. Mean comments don’t help anyone, and I agree, If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.
    Also, I never understood those people on Facebook and other social networks that post those stupid photos and stuff that can actually harm them in the future. People should be very careful with what they share on the world wide web.

    Filipa from

  4. Ally

    I agree with this article. You need to be aware of how you act online. However, it’s hard to always seem correct since it’s the Internet and people can’t see your face or hear your tone. I use a lot of sarcastic humor on my site and on my Twitter and if the reader doesn’t know that they may be offended – who knows.

    The fact is that if you are sarcastic or weird or whatever, you’re going to annoy people. Not everyone is going to like you, which I’m sure you’ve heard before. Of course this is no excuse to be mean spirited. But I feel that fashion bloggers can be too sensitive sometimes because all we receive is praise. Any crit can be taken as an insult when, in fact, if their is criticism that probably means that reader actually likes your blog and wants to see you improve. I wrote an article about this on my blog if you want to check it out.

    I still agree with this article, though. One has to be mindful of what he or she says if they want to see positive results!

    • Ashe

      “Of course this is no excuse to be mean spirited. But I feel that fashion bloggers can be too sensitive sometimes because all we receive is praise. Any crit can be taken as an insult when, in fact, if their is criticism that probably means that reader actually likes your blog and wants to see you improve. ”

      I absolutely agree with you! I think many can mistake criticism for being mean spirited– for example, I had a reader say, “You shouldn’t wear that coat belted, it makes you look pregnant.” (It was actually said a bit less nicely, but that’s beside the point). It’s criticism. That’s fair, and I can choose whether to agree or not.

      But then I get 3 comments from the same person saying, “You’re a fat digusting cow and just so gross to look at.” And that’s what people need to avoid. ESPECIALLY if/since it can be traced back to you! What does that put into the world?

  5. Rebecca

    Absolutely true. Don’t understand why people feel the need to be rude to people just because theyre hiding behind a computer. People should try to be more supportive of each other!

  6. laura redburn

    i completely agree with what you said before you get to the points, that if someone leaves a comment that gives a bad first impression ..why on earth would you want to visit that persons site, or see what else they have to say? it’s not like you’d go up to someone you don’t know in the street and ‘diss’ them, so i think of it that way. not that i’d ever be mean anyway!

    i also think it’s such a good idea to be generally courteous, things like saying thank you and please, as well as things like introducing yourself in an email (or properly addressing the person you’re emailing!) really takes no time at all and you will be seen as a much better, more respected and reliable a person.

  7. Rose

    Thanks for this post – I’ve had people write horrible comments on my youtube channel and have wanted to snap back at them and the things you wrote in this post stopped me – I will keep them in mind always!


  8. Julz

    Thanks for this post! Really made feel better about myself! I cant even get a community going just yet on my blog but hopefully I get there someday! (:

    I honestly learned from my mistakes unfortunately the hard way. And I remember telling myself I never wanted to feel that hurt again. So I know my mistakes may haunt me in the near future but I kknow who I am. It’s sad to see people from the past or present who try to bring you down especially if you have your career going and everything!

    Julz from

  9. erikarodica

    I agree to everything you said here Ashley! But the entire thing really is summarized by your last pointer. If you can’t say it in person, then don’t say it at all 😉

    🙂 Erika

  10. Brian

    I love this post. Great advice and stuff I think about every time I sit down to write. There’s a lot of nastiness out there and I decided from day one that it would never feature on my site. Thanks for this.


  11. Bohmyi

    This is such a good article. Especially the last tip about asking yourself if you would say or do this in real life. It’s SO easy to hide behind a computer screen and write a comment anonymously, and it’s just ridiculous because half of those people wouldn’t have the courage to do that in real life.
    It’s just really sad when people say these things. I haven’t gotten negative comments (yet), but I have seen them on other blogs and it’s just such a bad impression to give. They need to think before they publish! x

  12. alicatstrut

    Great post, great reminder to take the high road instead of the cheap shot. I think accountability is the best thing that ever happened to the Internet. People can use it as away to make real connections and that gives it a more permanent place in our lives than if it had stayed a haven for people who want to put the worst versions of themselves out there.

  13. runwaymonk

    This is an awesome piece of advise. I just started a new category called “simply Indian” in which i post my thought on fashion and society. I had just written one post and it basically is a debate whether Punks will be accepted in Indian society of not (since punks are having a moment right now).

    The post is not about style but about ideology behind a fashion subculture. So, I was wondering how this article projected me? Intellectual? Snobbish? Vague? Thoughtful? About do you think?


  14. Barbara

    The value of being ones best self online can and should never be under estimated. Everyone I know in the makeup, fashion and online industry met me online first and then craved to meet me in real life and they always say the same thing. Thus, consistency and a good personal image online and offline is VERY key.