Don’t be a jerk! Please.

Although people have behaved badly before social media ever came along, these days it’s possible to behave badly in front a much larger audience. It becomes one of those old Faberge shampoo commercials where Heather Locklear multiplies herself. It’s so easy to tell two more people who tell more people who tell two more people. Suddenly, whatever it is you’ve done/said has gone viral.

This isn’t a great situation in which to find yourself. The consequences can reach far beyond your computer keyboard.

We all have bad days. But here are a few ideas on how not to have your bad day immortalized on the internet:

  • Unplug, step away, turn it off. Sometimes the very thing that is causing our day might be something we’ve encountered online. No matter what it is, before you go off on a tirade, take your hands off that keyboard and go for a walk.
  • Don’t be a troll. When you disagree with someone, take a moment before you type that response. Will your contribution to a discussion add any value? Can you word things respectfully? Or, are you just picking a fight? Maybe the other person is looking for a fight. Why give that fire more oxygen?
  • Sarcasm doesn’t translate well in the written word. People can’t see your facial expression or hear your tone of voice. Your acerbic wit may be enjoyed over a few cocktails with some friends. On the internet, it’s probably not nearly as enjoyable or obvious in your intent.
  • Consider the venue. A lot of people have professional and personal accounts on social networking sites. It’s okay to keep those separate. But if you choose not to go that route, consider the overall purpose of a particular site, group, room, etc. Sharing all of your homemade LOL cats pictures in a place dedicated to professional discussions is not going to win you fans.
  • Be tactful and polite. In other words, BE NICE! You can get your point across without attacking other people. Saying you’re just being blunt is too often an excuse for being rude. Words do hurt. Make sure that your words don’t come back to hurt you in the future.

It’s not hard to have some manners online. Librarians can be passionate and opinionated, and I’m not seeking to change that. But I think we can get more done if we all take the time to be professional and respectful; online or offline.

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