Chris Brogan was one of my favorite speakers at the conference and he didn’t waste any time getting to one of the biggest problems with the web today, bitchy women. Amen brother. And this is where the blog ends about Chris. Sorry Chris, I used you as bait. I loved you, reading your book right now, looking forward to meeting you again, but lets get to the meat here, those bitches you spoke of.
We pontificate regularly here in this sphere about “bullying” and how terrible teens and tweens can be to each other. We share endless advice on how to keep kids safe from the “mean girl” phenomenon and how Facebook is a great bullying platform for this easily influenced group. You know what I think? I think it’s time to step up ladies and set the example. My experience in the world of bloggers and the web is relatively short. I am only a mere two years in, but I have seen enough toxic garbage left in comments and on Facebook to seriously make me think it was time to get off the web for good. Why are we so nasty? Can we not heed our own advice and understand that what we put out on the internet is forever?
Before you think I’ve dubbed myself Saint Candace, you should know that I absolutely have spent time in a room with good friends being catty. I like to think I’m improving in this regard, but I’m fairly certain it will happen again. I am human after all. People irritate me. The difference here though is that I’m in a room with friends, probably a few drinks and a human memory that is short. The environment in which I choose to vent is considered safe. I also for the record, spend a lot of time at my computer rolling my eyes, shouting obscenities and things like “Are you on glue?” at it. Not everything I see on the web is my cup of tea. Obviously, I am not going to agree with everything out there. D’uh.
I teach my children that although they are not going to like everyone, they are required to be nice (civil) to everyone. I don’t think this is duplicitous at all, but pragmatic. I also tell them they don’t have to agree with everything they hear. It is smart to question, to be skeptical. Debate is healthy, but to do it with respect. So back to us.
Behind those pretty blog pages are real women who may not share my political or religious views, my views on food or raising kids. But I never forget that there is a real live person behind the words. As much as their opinion may irritate the crap out of me, it is equally reasonable to expect that they may feel the same about me. Although, I have no idea why (insert big winky smiley face here). Clearly, we don’t all see eye to eye but here’s the thing; if I wouldn’t say it to their face, I wouldn’t publish it online. Period. It’s easy to be emboldened at a keyboard, WHERE YOU CAN SHOUT!!!!! and use f*#@in expletives and be a little bit braver than in real life. But wait, this is real life. There is an actual person reading your reply on the other end and if you can imagine yourself crying or feeling ill at your desk after someone called you a terrible name then don’t do it.
I don’t know about you but I don’t walk up to anyone and yell at them in “real life” and I certainly don’t call them names just because they have a different opinion. Imagine, if we all walked around saying exactly what we thought all the time? We’d live in a pretty uncivilized place, wouldn’t we? That is what the web is sometimes, completely uncivilized. I have seen people post a dissenting opinion and be called a “c**t” as opposed to actually being offered a valid counter argument. I have seen comments left on blogs that would make you weep. Sadly, I have also seen threats. Really? Teach our children? Time to look at our own community first. So here are my ten commandments for responsible surfing and web commenting:
If you come across a blogger that makes the vein in your neck throb and your heart race, then avoid that blog. Why go back? Seriously? Are you a sucker for punishment? You two wouldn’t likely go catch a flick together, why hang out on the web?
If someone you generally like, posts something you vehemently disagree with, ask yourself if you can let this one slide. No? Then post your response respectfully.
No name calling. Ever. We’re not five.
Take a break. Just like never going to bed mad, never leave your anger on the internet. Walk away for the night, or a few days. Chances are you’ll feel differently and if you don’t, at least you’ve had some time to form a rational response.
Sign your name. Anonymity is for cowards. You immediately lose credibility when you can’t back up what you say with your name and you are more likely to temper your response.
Build up, don’t tear down. There is lots of room on the internet for everyone. Jealousy is a terrible monster, try to recognize it when it rears its ugly head. Readers of your comments will pick up on it right away.
Rise above. You are better than the troll that left you a shitty comment. Don’t sink to their level.
Set the example. Remember that some day your children will do a Google search on your name. What do you want them to find?
Like attracts like. If you like tofurky and Coca-cola, stay away from the Pepsi drinking hamburger eaters. There’s a million tofurky eaters that have your back.
Finally, all these could be wiped out with two simple words. Play nice.
**It should be noted that I have seen great warmth, humour and inspiration within this community as well. I have also met people that I thought I would loathe in real life because I found their opinions offensive, only to find they are lovely people. I’m glad I didn’t write something terrible to them or I may never have had the opportunity to find that out. When we raise the bar on treating others respectfully, we all win.