This is a learning process for all of us, and I realize that I could have written “Think About This: Posting Online (Part 1)” very differently. With that in mind, I am going to try and re-write it so that it is more helpful and less confrontational – because depending on who reads that post they might think I was being rude, even though that was not my intention at all. Also the course I chose to take on that post left the message of the whole thing rather ambiguous and that doesn’t help anyone. I also failed to mention that the person who I had this exchange with was not trolling or being a horrible Internet person, I think the intent really was to start a conversation about it. Basically, we both went about things in a less productive way than we intended and the goal here is to try and learn how to comment, start conversations, and share opinions in a responsible and positive way. So here is my second attempt at getting the message right…
You only have control over what you write, not people’s reactions to it. If you are posting anywhere on the Internet you will eventually offend someone, take something the wrong way, or let your emotions get the best of you.
I saw the T.H.I.N.K. concept in one of my textbooks about technology integration in schools and it was meant to help kids learn to communicate online and end cyber-bullying. Then it started showing up on Facebook with this image:
I really love the concept because it is easy to remember (even in the ‘heat’ of an argument) and it can be applied to conversations or online discussions. If the goal is to become a more positive person, and to spread a more positive culture in our online interactions, this is a great start.
I came up with an addition to it though just for online communication: to T.H.I.N.K. before you P.O.S.T. because I didn’t feel that my post yesterday was as productive as it could have been had I just spent a little more time on it. So here are my new guidelines for posting:
T.H.I.N.K. before you P.O.S.T.
T – is it Truthful? Just because you feel strongly or read about it somewhere does not make it true. Fact check yourself. Fact check before you forward bad information (I am so guilty of this). I know a lot of stuff, however, as the conversation yesterday showed – I don’t always know how I know, all I remember sometimes is that I read it somewhere. Just because I read it somewhere doesn’t make it a fact or truthful.
H – is it Helpful? If what you are saying is true, then it should be common knowledge. If it isn’t common knowledge include a link or reference with your post (especially with controversial subjects). If you don’t feel like going through the trouble to do that, then maybe you don’t need to comment. Help others learn through your words, if it doesn’t add knowledge or help the conversation maybe it isn’t even necessary (N).
I – is it Inspiring? Life isn’t all about facts, but we seem to spend a lot of time on the Internet pointing out flaws and finding fault. No one reads a comment like: “You’re a complete moron.” And thinks to themselves, “You know, that made me want to go and educate myself.”
N– is it Necessary? I would say about 80% of the stuff I have posted in my Internet life was completely unnecessary. Be it a confrontational opinion of mine, or just to troll (I am guilty of this too) much of what I have said is just garbage to elicit an emotional response from people. Another part of this is our newsfeeds. Seriously these things are dangerous. Someone posts something on their wall on Facebook, it shows up in your newsfeed and all of a sudden that post is directly targeted to YOU and you must respond. You really don’t have to respond.
K– is it Kind? You can completely and adamantly disagree with someone and still be kind. It isn’t that hard, and you will find that people will be more willing to engage in conversation with you, and will be much more willing to listen to your views or opinions when you are kind than when you devolve to name calling or bullying.
P– Pick your battles: Not everyone wants to discuss the complexities of life with you. That is why we surround ourselves with friends and like-minded people. If you are having a conversation about the 2nd Amendment and they keep posting things you find as ignorant or wrong, post a relevant fact (with references) and leave the conversation when they respond with, “Merika! Fuck Yeah!” This person doesn’t care what you think. They also don’t care about facts. Leave it alone rather than ruin your day. I guarantee that person’s day will continue on without another thought about you or your views, yet you will be left frustrated and angry. Is what you had to say to that particular person worth ruining your day over?
O– Observe other commenters: Watch what other people are doing before you jump in the conversation. Don’t get into a ‘shouting’ match with the troll (they are easily identified and really deserve no response). Find the person in the comment string that is trying to learn something, or is offering facts and references to support their views and have conversations with them.
S– Keep it Simple: Another one I am guilty of; I can be very ‘wordy’. This is a blog post, so I get to be lengthy (but not too lengthy). However, in a comment stream, you need to get your point across quickly and with as few words as possible. People aren’t doing ‘research’ in a comment stream, and most people only visit the conversation once. Make your post count.
T– Take your Time: The greatest conversation killing action is an emotional or impulsive response. We all have a certain visceral reaction to information presented to us, that doesn’t mean we have to share it.
If we can manage to stop and T.H.I.N.K. before we P.O.S.T. we should be able to start a new Internet culture of communicators rather than trolls. Wouldn’t that be nice?