Handling Yourself as a Good Netizen
I have been managing Able2know for over twelve years.
It is a generalized Q & A website and the members are all volunteers. I have learned a few things about handling yourself online during this time.
- There are few emergencies online. Take your time. I have found, if I am in a hot hurry to respond, itching to answer, it usually means I am getting obsessive.
- When it’s really nutty, step away from the keyboard. I suppose this is a corollary to the first one. I pull back when it gets too crazy-making, or try to figure out what else may be bothering me, e. g. I haven’t worked out yet, something at home is annoying me, etc. Being online, and being annoyed, does not equal that something online is causing the annoyance.
- All we have are words (emoticons do nearly nothing).
I like to make my words count, and actually mean exactly, 100%, what I write, but not everyone hits that degree of precision in their communications. I’ve learned to cut about a 10% degree of slack.
- Not everyone gets you. You might be hysterically funny in person, but bomb online. You might feel you’re a gifted writer, but you’re writing to the wrong audience. You may be hip for your crowd, but hopelessly out of it in another. This is not, really, a personal thing. You can either waste your time trying to get everyone to love you or you can recognize that you didn’t convert one person and move on from there. Choose the latter; it’ll save your sanity every time.
- Be Zen. E. g. I’ve found the old, “oh, you go first” kind of thing smooths the way a lot. I am not saying to not have your say and let everyone else win all the time. It’s just, ya kinda pick the hill you wanna die on, e. g. what’s really important. Stick to those guns. The others, not so much. E. g. getting into a shouting match and being kicked off a site due to your hatred of the Designated Hitter Rule – even on a sports or baseball site – is in the category of you’re probably overreacting and being really, really silly. I doubt that that is a hill most people would try want to die on. But defending your beliefs, fighting prejudice, etc.? Those are probably better hills.
- And the corollary to #5: controversial topics are controversial for a reason. They get under people’s skin and make them squirm. And it’s not nice to do that all the time. So try to engage people in other ways. There are plenty of people on Able2know who argue a lot about politics. I am not a fan of arguing politics. But we also get together and play Fantasy Baseball (talk about your Designated Hitter Rule). Or we swap recipes, or pet stories, or the like. And then, when a forum member is sick or becomes bereaved, people who were just arguing till they were blue in the face virtually hug and offer tributes, prayers (or positive, healing thoughts) and words of comfort. This user multidimensionality is wonderful to see. Over the years, people have gotten better at it. If someone’s really bothering you, it’s possible that, in other contexts, you’d get along. You might want to see if you can find some common ground, and other contexts.
- Know when to stop, or even let others have the last word. When I am really angry, I usually just withdraw. This isn’t a surrender. It’s just, I’m tired and life’s too short. You are not a smaller, or less worthwhile person, and you haven’t lost (whatever that really means, particularly on the Internet, ferchrissakes) if you walk away and wash your hands of things. You are entitled to call it quits on an argument or discussion.
I hope you learn from my insanity and my mistakes. Life’s too short to let it get to you too much!