What I want to write about today has probably been discussed ad nauseam in some forums: Net Etiquette, or “Netiquette”. There was a time when one could get online and be totally belligerent because they maintained anonymity. I think we have finally progressed where that attitude is becoming less acceptable. Don’t misunderstand. I know people are still belligerent and flame wars still exist on various message boards, Gather but netizens (internet citizens) are becoming less tolerable. But how should one act in an arena that is still new and uncharted for the most part? Essentially, behave how you do in the real world!
Practicing good “Netiquette” is to be respectful of other people you are having conversations with. Being respectful doesn’t mean you have to agree with their point of view, but in essence you agree to disagree. In doing so you also show respect for lurkers, people that don’t actively participate but read the conversations. This way you won’t insult anyone’s intelligence. People will always have reasons to disagree, and most times you will not change someone’s mind. But if you are respectful, your point of view will have a better chance of being considered a worthy point of view for the mere fact that you kept your integrity while discussing it. You may not be the “mind changer”, but by being pleasant and respectful you have a better chance of planting a seed.
Being respectful also means you don’t throw out insults, or ad hominem attacks (such as insulting someone on their grammar instead of responding to the topic of conversation directly). There is nothing that shows weakness more than a senseless insult, or name calling. What you end up doing is undermine your own credibility as an effective debater. “Your momma so ugly” type comments are best left for the playgrounds. It’s easy to cast an insult, but it shows true character to bite your tongue at the urge to be disrespectful.
You also should be careful to not confuse your own opinion with fact. People often write up their opinion as an actual fact. In order for something to be factual, you have to be able to prove what you are saying with resources that one can reference. These resources must also be accepted as “trustworthy” or have a trustworthy reputation. There is nothing wrong with expressing your opinion so long as people understand that is what you are doing.
I have always said it is up to the sender of the message to make sure the receiver of the message understands it. While the receiver does have some responsibility in understanding, it ultimately falls on the sender. You shouldn’t be insulted or get upset when you are misunderstood either. If you have been misunderstood, it gives you an opportunity to practice your communication skills!
I think the easiest way to make sure we are not misbehaving on our net excursions is to practice the Golden Rule: treat others the way we want to be treated. It is hard to mess that one up.