What’s acceptable online?

What’s kind of ironic is that this post was started days ago and recent events have just added further incentive to finish it.

When I wonder what’s appropriate online, my first thought is whether or not it’s something that I would say to someone’s face.   Or, how would I feel if the roles were reversed?  This post I’m writing, who could be offended?  Is this something I would tell them in person?  This comment on a post I’m writing, is that something I would say to someone’s face?

If I said this to someone in person, would I get punched in the face?  Or vice versa.

I see a lot of stuff online that wouldn’t pass any of those tests (or shouldn’t, at least).  I see it and wonder what the hell is wrong with people.  Sexist, racist, disrespectful, hateful comments that people would never (should never) say to each other in real life.

Granted, I’m an extremely polite and respectful person, but I don’t think many people use any kind of filtering for online behavior. As in, no filtering whatsoever.  It’s not in person so they just don’t care?  It’s like all the parts of the brain that review the words are circumvented because they’re not “talking” to a “person”, they’re writing on a computer.  And other people see this behavior and aren’t bothered by it, which troubles me.  If a person said that in public to someone else, would you be offended?  If so, you should be offended online as well.

One recent post was a joke that went well beyond what I thought was respectful.  It’s one thing to joke but there’s definitely a line that was crossed.  I was furious.  Had the same been said in front of me, there would have been a serious, serious problem.  What the fuck did you just say?  But it was online and written as a joke, so it’s somehow okay?  Somehow it’s funny?

I’m a very simple, easy going guy, but respect is something I take very seriously.  I give respect to other people, I try and act with respect for other people, and I only ask that I get respected back.  Apparently, online, that’s asking too much.

So, before you’re next post on your blog, or commenting on someone else’s, take a second and look at what you’re writing.  If it’s something that you wouldn’t say to face to face, you shouldn’t be saying it here either.

4 thoughts on “What’s acceptable online?

  1. The funny, or not so funny, thing about this is that I have told worse jokes in the real world, to peoples faces, but I almost never apologize. I do extend my apologies once again to you. Wanting to punch me in the face is a very natural reaction.

  2. Yes. I hear you on this. What I write online is what I would be happy to ask face to face – or tell face to face.

    Which is why I tend to pull up people when they make a comment that they might not find offensive, or maybe they don’t even realise they’ve made it and it gives me the willies… but generally I keep it polite and friendly.

    And I would expect the same if I were to make a snide horrid comment or something someone took offense to. I’m all for differing opinions and would rather know if I’ve said something that’s upsetting instead of no one saying anything at all. Discourse on these things I tend to find makes everyone’s worlds widen a bit more.

    Yet, I also find that there’s many who hide behind their keyboards and say things that they wouldn’t in public. You get that I guess.

    But not me, this is who I am, online and offline. I don’t change much.

  3. I think it boils down to consequences. The possible consequences of saying something rude or hurtful online pales in comparison to what would happen if such a thing were said to someone’s face. In person, harsh words could be met by everything from social shunning to being fired or having one’s ass kicked. I guess it’s easier for some people to be a “keyboard cowboy.” That said, there are just as many people who have a twisted concept of boundaries in real life, and they’ll often say whatever they damn well please to other people. I call it the “honesty fallacy” and I wrote about it over at Trauma Central if you wanna check it out.

    • Yeah, I think you’re on to something with the consequences comment. There’s basically no risk to saying whatever thing comes to mind online, whereas in person there’s definitely potential for consequences, social or physical. I like that term, “keyboard cowboy”.

      I’m interested in that post, I’ll have to check it out. Thanks!

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