samedi, août 03, 2013

How to be the classier person in a déclassé online world

This past week I participated in derailing a serious conversation my son was having on Facebook.

It became just another ventfest for people voicing their usual positions, another round of blah, blah, blah that goes absolutely nowhere.

And only one person on the thread made a genuine effort to answer the question that he asked.

I knew I was getting sucked into another debate that would go nowhere. I also knew that the adults involved were re-stating positions they had held for a long time, and that no one's mind was liable to be changed.

But I jumped in there. I guess it felt good to vent.

We don't always treat each other well in these conversations. More to the point, we don't make progress in doing anything to solve the problems we all clearly see. It's just blather.

I admire youth -- youth's seriousness, creativity, and most of all, youth's hope. The question could have been asked by anyone's child. I don't think we honored it.

On a completely different front, I was approached by a guy online in a way that seemed innocuous at first, but turned out to be outrageous. As I've noted before, some people behave in the "safety" of their online universe in ways that they never would behave in real life.

I can't imagine  this fellow going all Anthony Weiner on a colleague, but you never know. People feel free to let their libidos hang out (as it were) online. To be provocative -- I'm not sure that there is a big difference between being sexually explicit online and going off on a political rant.

It's not about convincing someone else (unless you are sharing information).  These eruptions are about relieving anger, or sexual tension, or stress, and making yourself feel better.

This week also saw an intense conversation peter out when it was put to the "reality" test. No matter how often I have these communication events (I'm not sure how to tag them), and I am more and more choosy about whether I have them, I still feel burned when the other person disappears into the ether.

I say that I'm not going to let the poor manners and unchained egos of the Internet change me, but I've already been altered.  

Yeah, o.k.,  I'm not hitting on guys or posting rage-filled reactions to someone else's ideas. But I'm still not where I want to be.

In this regard, a few of my elders have been wonderful teachers. They never post anything to Facebook unless it's edifying. 

A few resolutions, then, for leading a more classy online life. Feel free to add your own. It's a good conversation for those of us who can't keep our mouths shut online. Or maybe it's just a constructive one for me.

1. Think before you post. Consider your audience, the ones who speak up, and the ones who are observing you. Do you want to be known as the "village" blabbermouth?

2. If you err, make it on the side of kindness. Do not post in anger, or in snark. 

3. Not every thought that goes through your head is worth sharing, either on Twitter or Facebook.
Cull relentlessly.

4. Does your online persona match up with your real life behavior? I recently read an article in the NYT book review section about famous writers.  Many of them were outright jerks in real life. There are lots of things I'm NOT good at, but I am obsessed by trying to be the same person in "rl" that I am when I'm raving at you on Facebook.

4 a.  Keep it zipped. You know who you are. No one needs to see you exposed in a tell-all, or standing with your wife, husband or partner at a press conference.  Prudence is often a hidden virtue.  Dangerous behavior can be forever. 

5.  Which brings up another point;  Be honest.  Be truthful with others, but above all, don't start lying to yourself.  That's how we begin to live in ways that are splintered and alienated from our better selves (I'm aspiring to better, and letting God worry about "best"). 

I'm pretty darned good at dishing out advice. Let's see if I'm even better at taking it. You have permission to hold me accountable when I err, as I will now and then. Someone has to...

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