Every blogger I know can recount at least one experience with online negativity or backlash. In fact, receiving negative comments is sort of a "rite of passage" for bloggers (because at least someone is reading, right?).
We can thank the Internet for improving our lives in many different ways, but the day-to-day etiquette that governs our interactions with other human beings definitely does not translate online. We now post all sorts of personal details about our lives online -- and others can publicly comment on them with near anonymity. It is a dangerous combination.
To be fair, those who choose to share details of their lives online with the general public assume certain risks. However, there definitely exists a group of folks who linger online with the intent of stirring the pot, hurling insults -- or worse (sometimes much, much worse).
As a blogger who writes mostly about the experience of raising a family in Chicago, my soft spot is my kids. Say what you will about me. I can take it. But my kids are a whole other story.
A few years ago, I wrote a post on Wee Windy City applauding the Chicago Cubs organization for inviting children with severe peanut allergies to come enjoy a game in a special peanut-free section. As the mom of a little guy with food allergies, I was thrilled that these young Cubs fans could enjoy a game without their parents standing by with Epi pens at the ready. I also couldn't understand why some people seemed to be so put out by this very small accommodation for some deserving kids.
I hit publish on my post -- and was thrilled that it was promoted on the Chicago Tribune homepage. And then the comments started. Some were supportive. Others were hateful and ignorant. Certainly, this is not the ugliest example of bad online behavior. But it involved MY SON and I lost sleep over it.
Ultimately, I've learned to ignore negative comments. These folks want you to engage with them so the best approach is to ignore them completely (because then they lose sleep wondering why their inflammatory tactics didn't achieve the desired result).
Because of this (and honestly quite a few other) negative online experiences, I was interested to learn about Real Simple's effort to institute a return to online civility with the first annual “Be Nice on the Internet” Week. From January 9th to 13th, RealSimple.com will feature a look at the impact of internet negativity, expert tips on etiquette for the age of social media, and advice from celebrities and media personalities who have experienced rude behavior online.
In an effort to make the internet a more pleasant place, readers are invited to pledge their politeness and invite friends to join in being nice on the Web. RealSimple.com will be the source for ideas on how and why to Be Nice, and Real Simple’s Facebook page will offer fun e-cards that can be shared with friends who deserve a reward for their kind behavior. To sign up for “Be Nice on the Internet” Week, visit realsimple.com/beniceweek and facebook.com/realsimple, and join the conversation on Twitter at #BeNiceWeek.
Will this campaign put an end to meanies on the Internet? Of course not. But if it makes someone pause and reconsider before sending out a hateful Tweet and leaving an unkind blog comment, then I am all for it.
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