We like to differentiate between “real life” and “online,” but the truth is, the internet is very much a part of real life. Those are real people we are communicating with, and our actions can have real consequences, both desirable ones and things we truly wished had never happened. Far from being outside of reality, our online communities are actually vast public or semi-public spaces, with some unique features. You can’t scroll past people offline, or have a three hour conversation with somebody without knowing what they look like, or save a conversation and come back later when you ran into someone at the coffeehouse, as you can when you stumbled across them online.
But you can have an impact on someone else no matter where you encounter them, and the internet is too much a part of our lives to brush online interactions off as “just on the internet” anymore. Treating people with kindness and compassion shouldn’t stop at the keyboard.
One of the most common ways to interact with people online is through joining online groups. Facebook groups are available for everything from health issues to careers to hobbies to having a favorite dog breed or television show. And like offline support groups, meetup groups, or meetings, there are some things to keep in mind to help them run smoothly and benefit everyone as much as possible.
Scroll past posts that are simply unpleasant, annoying, or unhelpful to you personally.
In any group, somebody is going to bring up something you don’t want to talk about at some point. If you go out to dinner, two sports fans might start chatting about the game, even though you haven’t paid attention to sports in years. You might have to listen to the boring story about somebody’s kids getting ready for school while you’re in a meeting at the office. The internet is no different. Maybe you don’t like all the posts about gardening in your healthy living group, or you’re in a group for musicians, and somebody keeps posting about a band you don’t listen to. This is where the internet’s unique features come in handy. Offline, it would be quite rude to just turn and walk away mid conversation. Online, you can just scroll past. There is no need to comment and inform people that this is a topic you don’t care to talk about. If someone wants to know if anyone else is into whatever they’re talking about, they will ask.
Defund and dismantle the political correctness police.
Just as no one truly needs to know that you do not like gardening or cutesy kid stories or sports, everyone who chooses the same online group as you does not need to be informed that you “evolved past” caring about the way you look, or that you’re “too enlightened” to like a particular song or movie.
Before commenting, sit back and ask yourself, “Is this thread, this online conversation, truly harmful to others? Is someone honestly in some kind of danger if they participate in this? Or am I just trying to ruin things for somebody else because they aren’t to my liking?”
The prime example of this is “celebrity crush” or “hot celebrities” threads intended for group members to get to know one another in a lighthearted fun way. Those who simply aren’t into celebrities, crushes, celebrity crushes, or getting to know people in a lighthearted fun way scroll past. Others offer up their lists. But there always has to be that one person who joins the conversation just to inform everybody else that this conversation is beneath them, it should be beneath everyone else too, and they should all be talking about something else. Don’t be that person. This may feel evolved and enlightened and righteous, but to everyone whose conversation you just ruined, you only come across as a spoiled brat who can’t handle exposure to anything not to their liking.
The “reporting” function is for things that truly disrupt the group, not things that you and you alone don’t find helpful.
The option to report posts and comments to the moderators or administrators is there to keep the group running smoothly. It should be used if the group begins to be filled with spam posts, or if somebody is posting things that frighten or sicken others to the point that they can no longer participate in the group. It is not there to report people for bringing up topics that are relevant to the group, but not to you personally, for letting the administrators or moderators know that you do not like someone, or for getting back at somebody who argued with you in another thread.
Even if you declined to comment, reporting a post to tell the moderators that you don’t think John Z’s post about sleep problems is taking the anxiety group in the right direction, or that you are afraid others won’t relate to Jane Y’s post about indoor planting in your gardening group is still disruptive. Your best course of action is to simply join in on other conversations without a word to or about the ones you do not find useful.
Respect the privacy of everyone…including those who displease you.
In any large group, there are going to be jerks. It doesn’t matter what the interest or the issue might be, if you get a large group together online or offline or a mix of both, there will be somebody in there who has to start trouble for others.
Should you become the focus of this person, it may be tempting to “put them on blast,” or share their content, including their name and profile picture, if applicable, in a way that people outside the group can see them. The goal, of course, is to get everyone to back you up, and agree with you that the person is in fact, quite the toad.
Don’t do it. You may think you’re “exposing” a bad person, but all you’re really doing is showing everyone that you’re willing to break confidences and humiliate anybody who upsets you.
Do speak up and reach out if you see someone getting into a dangerous situation.
There is no point in forming any type of community, online or offline, if we’re not going to look out for the members of that community. If you see someone planning or seeking something dangerous, giving out a risky amount of personal information, or giving advice that could lead to harm to someone else…speak up. Comment, private message, flag, or do whatever you need to in order to keep people safe.
The unique features of the internet do not make it any less real than a large public space anywhere else. But they do make it a bit different than other public spaces. And while those differences can bring problems, they can also provide the means to sidestep or avoid problems. Whether meeting online, offline, or a little bit of both, do all you can to make things run smoothly for yourself and everyone else in the group.
by Jess Szabo'
originally published on Artist Cafe Utica
by Jess Szabo originally published on Artist Cafe Utica www.artistcafeutica.com