There are a lot of jerks on the internet. If you’re reading this, I’m going to assume that you’re not one of them — but perhaps you’ve found yourself engaging in behavior that you later regretted. Or maybe you have a friend or family member who embodies the worst of what the internet has to offer and it makes your skin crawl.
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The good news is that there are plenty of people out there who are interested in making the internet a better place, and they don’t have to be completely humorless about it! In fact, I’d argue that some of today’s most well-known thought leaders are also genuinely funny. So how do they do it? Well, for starters.
Be a woman.
As a woman, you are more likely to be stereotyped as emotional, irrational, and/or lacking in rationality. In general, this means that you will have less credibility than your male counterparts when making statements about facts or even opinions. It also means that your words will be judged more harshly than a man’s would be for similar actions or statements.
Be aware of the stereotypes around women and try to avoid them: don’t write angry emails; stay calm in arguments; don’t use language that could be interpreted as emotional (i.e., saying “I am upset” is better than saying “I’m furious!”). If someone calls you on it—and they probably will—apologize for any mistakes on your part and move on with grace!
Put some thought into your words.
When you’re writing, don’t say things that you wouldn’t want someone to say to your face.
I know this sounds obvious, but it’s amazing how often people fail to do this. The most common reason for this is because they are not thinking about the reader of their words. If you think about what it would feel like if someone said something hurtful or disrespectful to you in person, then chances are good that it wouldn’t be appropriate for an email either. And if something is hurtful or disrespectful?
Then it’s probably too personal even for an email. But there’s another reason: You never know who will read what you say one day! You might be talking smack about a coworker or client—and then guess who shows up at your office party? Or maybe years later when someone Googles their name (or yours), they’ll find out that long time ago when they asked for help with their homework (or whatever) and got burned by some jerk on the internet!
Ask yourself why you’re saying what you’re saying
Consider why you want to say what you’re thinking. If there’s no good reason, then don’t say it. Also, If there is a good reason. But no one cares or it serves no purpose in the context of the situation or conversation, don’t say it. Thus, If you’re unsure about whether people will care or not. Consider whether your thoughts are actually important enough to warrant sharing with others.
You have an insatiable need for attention? This is a problem that needs addressing outside of social media—the internet isn’t going anywhere anytime soon and neither are its many platforms for interaction and conversation. However, if none of those seem like appropriate places for dealing with your personal issues at this time (or ever), then this guide likely won’t help much beyond suggesting other methods for reflection and self-improvement that involve less public catharsis than posting inflammatory commentary online would provide.