The Internet’s veneer of anonymity sometimes lulls the unwary cyberspace traveler into releasing his or her alter-ego online: that impolite, self-righteous, brutish troll that most of us try to restrain or even to completely root out of our “real” lives.
Unfortunately it’s far too easy to forget there are human beings on the receiving end of any of our communications, especially the ones that leave our fingertips to go sailing out over the Web into the great, wide, invisible unknown. When we do forget this important point, however, we place ourselves in danger of injuring all kinds of relationships, and I don’t mean just the casual internet acquaintances.
As tempting as it may be to assume we can safely maintain one persona online and another off, the reality is that we can’t. A relationship habit formed online is sure to bleed over into our offline relationships eventually, because—as human beings—we are all creatures of habit.
Unfortunately, we really have only one reputation. Suppose a future employer—or even that gorgeous girl next door—were to Google your name one day. Could the search engine turn up some online activity that you might wish had remained unseen?
The best policy to adopt, then, is the one that says, “If I wouldn’t do this face-to-face, I shouldn’t do it online either.” Of course, there are some amongst us who aren’t sure where to draw the lines in face-to-face relationships either, so for their sake I’ve included some good sources of “netiquette” advice.
Start applying these and watch your online (and offline) relationships blossom!
The Art and Mystery of Online Etiquette by Dale Van Eck, Associate Producer Education Technology, The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.
There’s an Angry Fire in Cyberspace This article by Andrew Campbell examines some internet behavior to be avoided at all costs.
Netiquette by Virginia Shea. The most comprehensive etiquette guide available on the Internet.
Emily Post Etiquette: Technology “Apply a little common sense to the use of your cool tech tools and you’ll be an etiquette superstar.”