Let’s play nice out there

Apparently the anonymity of social media, coupled with the at-arm’s-length feel of the Internet, means that we are often tempted to speak and act in a way we probably wouldn’t if we were face-to-face with a person or situation. We can get mean. You know what I’m talking about. The sarky comments, the temptation to wade into someone else’s mess, the need to correct, criticise, ridicule, offer up our own viewpoint, or just be abusive because someone has ticked you off.

But sometimes, we say a bit too much, and obviously people can get hurt, and relationships—online and off—can get damaged, and before you know it you’re blacklisted. I’ve done it myself. I made a comment. I meant it in a jokey way, but someone found it overly critical and was offended. Result? Someone I respected and enjoyed following has blocked me!!!! I apologised but it didn’t make any difference. It’s easy to say ‘Well they shouldn’t be so easily offended.’ It’s not really their fault – I just didn’t think before I ‘spoke’, I was so keen to show off my hilarious wit. It’s my fault, not his.

We’re quite keen to say that things are other people’s problems, but that ‘I’m all right, you’re the one with the problem,’ attitude doesn’t get us far. Lucy Mitchell on her brilliant blog BlondeWriteMore suggested we should perform one random act of creative kindness daily. A lot of us, especially writers, sit at home all day working away on our own. So the words of a stranger on the other side of the planet can have a deep effect. Don’t mess up someone’s day just because you got carried away with your own cleverness or were eager to be seen interacting on your platform of choice.

When you make a comment, remember you are talking to a real person, not just a collection of bytes. Don’t disguise a nasty sideswipe as a witty comment; don’t act as if you are the almighty writing boffin just because you’ve had some success and they are still working towards theirs. Don’t laugh at the NaNoWriMoers, at the aspirers, at the strugglers, at the people with the lousy book cover, poor editing, ideas that–to you–seem hackneyed or cliched. We are all just trying to get by. To hone our craft we all have to start somewhere. My mum used to say ‘If you can’t say something nice, keep quiet.’ So play nice, be generous, be gentle, be kind.

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I didn’t recognise you in that media!

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Apparently we all lie on our CV or Resume. I never did, but then I was brought up to believe that my sins would find me out, so I never took the chance. It would have been tempting to award myself a PhD in Business Management in the hope of landing a job paying big bucks, but I always knew that sooner or later, someone would come along and ask me that one deep question that would reveal my ignorance in all its glory. So I never lied on my CV.

But just like trolling, it seems we can often leave the straight and narrow behind once we get close to our keyboards. Bending the truth on your social media profile is okay, even desirable. Don’t get too carried away–the internet really isn’t as anonymous as we like to think. Out there somewhere are all the people who spotted that you had ditched another class back in the day, or that you got a terrible grade for that science homework, and they will tell all at the least opportune moment.

So keep yourself and your reputation squeaky clean. Don’t be tempted to exaggerate, let alone downright lie. There is no bigger fall than a public one, especially if you are hoping to use social media to market yourself for work or online business.

Keep to the truth. Don’t say you are a New York Times bestselling author if only your mum and your cat have read your book. Don’t post a profile pic of yourself that is thirty years/300 pounds out of date. Tell us what you have done with your life, we will understand if it’s not all been unalloyed success, we’ve all been there. Skate over the grimmer details by all means, but keep to the truth and don’t bluster or make excuses. Don’t spam. Don’t batter people with ‘buy my stuff’ messages and never, never, never put someone down if you don’t want it done to you.

Thanks for reading. Rant over.

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