I have been interacting with people online since 2000. In fact, that is how I learnt how to be sociable in real life (there are dozens of people who can testify to that transformation). I have always had a set of vague principles that I use to decide what I do online. Mostly, when it “doesn’t feel right” I either don’t write it or if it is too late, delete it or apologise for it. To reduce the occurrence of the last two, I have written down these principles instead of having my “intuition” guide me.
- Not all of your friends/followers online is a friend in real life. They can become your friends, but by default they are not.
- If you appreciate someone online, say so and support their ventures if you find them useful. Meet them in real life, have a conversation. Social networks are simply tools to discover people you like, and once that is done, get to know them for real.
- Will you show every stranger on the road, a video of your family? If not, why do it online? Do you paint your face red/blue and green in support of different protests around the world? If not, why do that to your avatars? Do you tell random strangers staring at you on the road where you are going? If not, why do you tell your followers on twitter that? Behave online as you would with people offline.
- It is harder to lie online since you have to keep doing it on different networks and in different contexts. Besides, employers/dates/friends would catch your lie as soon as you say it.
- Fact-check every opinion you accept as truth. Watch this video, watch it every time you feel you are getting sucked into a story. Everyone has an agenda, even you.
- Everything you say online is stored. Be careful of what you say and know the consequences of your words. People have been executed for blogging.
- Do not insult people online just because it is easy to do so and even if they have insulted you.
- Do not talk about work unless you are authorised to do so (or you are self-employed), not even on your “anonymous blog”. Do not talk about your relationship with someone unless you have their permission (including husbands/wives/boyfriends/girlfriends/kids).
Write as you would talk to a person. Do not write like this:
Synthesizing interactive, content, sales, and marketing ideas into strategies that activate. Blending creative and analytical, fun and serious within a contextual approach focused on driving margin.
It is okay to promote yourself or your services online, but don’t disrupt other people while doing so (@ replying “influential” people to make them retweet your posts, sending Direct Messages to “friends” about the latest post on your blog). Do not say stuff like this (yes, I actually found it on a bio):
A natural leader, I’m an outstanding wingman. A natural at crafting and delivering the pitch, I inspire colleagues and clients with passion, perspective, and creative vision.
What are your principles? If you have not articulated them yet, it is time to do so. If not for guiding your online activities, it is at least a fun exercise in discovering what your personal filter is!