Good morning and welcome to Friday!
Today’s post is just a quick bit of advice to those of you who use the internet and leave comments on news stories, Youtube videos, personal finance blogs, and similar things.
First off, I’m not saying you shouldn’t question others’ work and I’m definitely not saying that you shouldn’t speak your mind. But there is a big distance between speaking your mind and just being a total jerk about it.
As such, you should conduct yourself as though you’re not totally anonymous. Another way to say it might be that you should be respectful enough that you wouldn’t be ashamed if your mom found out everything you’ve posted.
I can think of a few reasons why.
You’re not as anonymous as you think
We’ve all heard horror stories of job offers being rescinded, relationships broken up, and criminals captured thanks to poorly thought out social media updates. So by now, most people know enough not to good too dumb over social media (There are very public, very unfortunate exceptions to this, of course).
However, when people think they’re hiding behind the anonymity of an alias, some of the comments can get pretty wild.
That said, you’re not as anonymous as you think.
You don’t have to be paranoid to believe that, even though websites may want to keep your identity secret, they’re susceptible to government subpoenas, hackers, and people who are just good at guessing.
For that last one, think about it this way: if you do a lot of commenting, you’ll likely mention a few personal details in passing — where you went to school, perhaps, a hobby or two, or where you’re from. Add a few of those together and someone who both cares enough and has access to Google can easily figure out who you are.
Those comments are going to be out there forever
Words don’t take up a whole lot of memory and database storage is cheap anyway.
You think it’s embarrassing when you bring friends and significant others over to your parents’ house and your mom brings out the old photo albums where you’re rocking a sweet rat tail?
Imagine how awkward it’ll be 20 years from now when your kids can easily Google racist/misogynist/homophobic comments you thought were going to be kept anonymous or disappear.
We’re all still people
I understand that the promise of anonymity lets people say things they wouldn’t say otherwise, but what I don’t understand is the psychological gain that people think they get from the level of meanness I’ve seen displayed on the internet.
The man singing off-key in a YouTube video, the woman who’s slightly more overweight than what you’d consider ideal, the terrible, terrible personal finance blogger — we’re all real people. What makes you think we don’t deserve to be treated with the same respect that you’d expect from others in real life?
Now, there are a few things I’m not saying:
- I’m not saying that this applies to my own blogs. You guys are awesome 🙂
- I’m not saying that it’s against the law for you to say whatever you want on the internet; I anticipated “What happened to freedom of speech?” comments when I decided to write this. Yes, you can legally say whatever you want, but the other side of freedom of speech is that people can legally react to
- I’m not saying that it’s necessarily a good thing that people might lose elections or not get hired based on something stupid they might say on the internet
Anyhow, this is just some advice I’ve wanted to get off my chest for a while now; take it or ignore it. Either way, thanks as always for reading and have a great week 🙂