Online hate, sexting scandals, ugly poll contests, cyberbullying… we can turn it around!
The majority of people, including teens, own smartphones today. This means that most of us are digitally connected and likely to have witnessed some form of online hate or cyber-combat. I probably could give you the stats (over 50 percent of young people have experienced some type of online harassment, while 41 percent of adults have faced it), but I’m sure most of you reading this know it already.
It can be an ugly world in cyberspace, but it can also be a place where we are meeting so many great friends, advocates and people that genuinely care about each other.
We often hear the word upstander as it pertains to bullying or cyberbullying. It’s time to take this word and turn it around. Let’s all start to stand-up for our cyber-place and reclaim civility. Of course, that means being an upstander, but maybe by re-phrasing it – people will realize it has to do with all of us, not only students or children.
Stand-up: Be your digital best
If you are tired, or feel you’re not at your best (maybe you’re emotionally stressed out), it might be better to unplug. Take a digital break. We all make blunders when we’re exhausted or not thinking clearly. Waking up to a post regret could be costly.
5 Ways to reclaim your civility online:
- Your words and tone matters. Let’s remember, things online can be taken out of context and don’t always translate as we intend them to, especially your words and tone. Re-evaluate what you posted and be sure what you post is not offensive to people reading them. Hint: Review the post as if you were a 20 – 40 – or 60 years old reading them. If all three age groups won’t be offended, you’re good.
- Be interested in people and friends. Social media is a two-way highway. It’s important to be engaged with others online. Don’t be one-sided where you’re constantly talking about yourself and never asking about others. Interact with friends, comment on their posts and pictures. Hint: If you notice a friend promoting a service or product, ask how you can help, or be there to wish them the best. You never know when you will need them for the same. Being kind starts with us.
- 3 C’s of Online Behavior starts with civility. 1) Conduct: Be more self-aware of what what you’re about to post. Never put a temporary emotion on the permanent internet. Anger is temporary, online is forever. 2) Content: Is what you’re about to post going to embarrass you or humiliate someone else? You don’t want a tweet regret or post remorse moment haunting you or hurting someone. 3) Caring: Care enough about yourself to know when it’s time to click-out. Are you about to leave a snarky comment? Turn-it-off. Think twice – post once.
- Re-think how you share online. Social media is not a diary or a venting machine. Not everything offline needs to be shared online. Know when it’s time to go and have a session of whine and wine with your real-life friends – offline. Do you disagree with someone online? Don’t be combative, be constructive. You can have healthy debates – but when if it turns nasty, know when to politely step away. Keep in mind, this is always a reflection of your character. Be careful not to share inappropriate content such as nudity, drugs, profanity or other irresponsible posts.
- Kindness is contagious, it starts with us. What have you done for your cyber-friends lately? As a role-model online, your kids or others are watching. Did someone lose a pet? A loved one? Maybe you were an upstander when you saw someone struggling with harassment. Did you reach-out to someone when they posted about a bad day? Hint: While scrolling through your social feeds, you may see some missed opportunities, however it’s never too late for kindness.
This starts with us, we are responsible for our own cyberplace and space. We are also role-models for others. Never doubt, people are watching you online – from potential employers, relationships, careers, if you’re a teenager – it could be colleges and more. Your online behavior is a reflection of your offline character. It’s a part of your online reputation.
As we head into another contentious political year, don’t forget to pick up Shame Nation: The Global Epidemic of Online Hate for more insights on preventing, overcoming and surviving digital warfare.