Digital Etiquette; Reducing Negativity Across the Internet

Hundreds of years of sociology have established etiquette. Every society varies slightly from the next but each has a very defined set of rules on how to behave and what’s proper -- you hold the door open for others, you give your seat to an older person on the bus, and you respond with “bless you” or “gazuntite” when someone sneezes. You’d be hard pressed to find someone who could make a reasonable argument against these courtesies. It’s these established, almost unarguable, ettiquicies that make me wonder why we don’t behave similarly online.

Maybe it’s the anonymity of the Internet that makes people feel comfortable enough to reveal their ugly sides. Maybe it’s the unaccountability of our actions or the lack of real consequences. Maybe it’s the comfort of being able to find niche communities to support almost any philosophy that make us so incredibly open to exposing our deepest beliefs. We’re willing to spew emotions from the darkest, most perturbed, areas of our thought processes, often without regard for who this will effect or where these comments will reside.

Just like the streets of times square, the Internet is filled with thousands, millions, -- no, billions of people from all corners of our diverse globe. We have to be conscience of this diversity when we speak, share, and interact in the digital world, but often we forget or hide behind aliases.

Look, I’m the first to admit that I intentionally try to create a persona across the various online communities I’m involved in, from Facebook to Twitter, Instagram to Vine, Linkedin to Google Plus. I try to create a persona through posts, likes, uploads, filters, and retweets that read like the person I think I am or want to be, rather than the person I realistically embody.

My actions across my digital communities have become instinctive. It’s second nature to check-in, share, and photograph my experiences; not just because I want to share what I’m experiencing but because of the feeling of gratification that comes with boasting to my social graph. I want my friends and wider network to believe that what I’m doing is worth paying attention to, better yet being envious of. I want to create FOMO.

Now it sounds vain, I know, but if this were intended to be comedic, you’d laugh because it’s true. The internet, social communities, even email, have given way to a conveniently unfortunate broadcast of our individual self-aggrandization.

Let’s be honest: the only instances in which we share negative content from our personal lives on the internet is when we’re seeking comfort. Even if you’ve only posted about missing the bus and being late to work, we know that when sharing this kind of information, we’re looking for our community to respond and empathize. It’s our digital comfort blanket.

We’re embarrassed to cry, fight, and often have an opinion in the physical world, but put screens and cables between us and we’ll tell you every detail of lives stories, down to what we had for lunch. Parents and teachers tell us to, “think before you speak”, but how about, think before you hit We need to consider the reasoning behind what we’re sharing, before we blast our thoughts across the Internet.

It seems like everyday I turn on the news to hear about a new case of cyberbullying, where an entire high school student body has congregated online and turned some poor students Facebook page into a wall full of slander and hate speech. The ridicule becomes so ugly and relentless that often these cases lead the teen victim to do something dangerous or even worse, take their own life. These may be the most extreme cases, but it baffles me that the rules and protocol established in our physical world can’t protect or don’t seem to apply to the digital.

We need a sort of hard coded tabula rasa for the information age. We need an Emily Post of the Internet era.

The roadblocks to courtesy and thoughtfulness on the internet are the lack of personal accountability and self-awareness. There is a fine line between accountability and consequences, where consequences are the result(s) of our actions and accountability is our response to the way we mentally process our actions.

When considering the effect that the recent Facebook experiment had on people’s feelings, imagine the effect that reducing negativity across the internet as a whole would have on the general demeanour of the internet population.

Utopian? Maybe, but the internet is the last place left for true regulation by the people. It’s time we start taking responsibility for our words and actions in this new frontier.

This article was written by FIVE THOT's own, Dan Dupree. When you need to know anything about the next music festival, the finer points of techno, or anything social media you talk to Dan Dupree. Dan is a native to the Bay Area and contains a formidable depth of knowledge on rad things to do in San Francisco.

Polite Fashionable Man image courtesy of Shutterstock

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