Have you been hanging around in internet forums and/or making blog comments lately? Public posting is growing ever-popular. One thing I've noticed, is that if you use it for business purposes and you accidentally blurt wrong thing, it can get ugly pretty quick. A remark that was never intended to be malevolent turns out to offend somebody, and next thing you know, you're engaged in yet another public forum ping pong match. This can be downright exhausting. So is there a 'proper' way to conduct oneself on network, in forum, and on blog? From what I've seen so far, I have to say yes.
May I present: The Unofficial Internet Posting Rules.
1. Always assume that other person has good intentions.
There you are, sprinkling comments here and there and having a fine old time, when suddenly up pops someone who begs to differ. A good debate can be envigorating, but if things escalate, you may begin to feel attacked and/or misunderstood. Do you have a right to feel this way? Who is attacking who anyway?
Internet conversations feel remote because they are. You can't diffuse a tense conversation by cracking a joke or meeting someone's eyes with a silent apology. Internet 'arguments' can string along for days because, unlike a verbal argument which quickly fades from your memory, they're harsh words frozen in time. Someone who is ripping you a new one on public forum may actually be a wonderful person who thinks a lot like you, but you wouldn't know because all you see are those hostile words on screen that won't go away!
For this reason, it's unbelievably important not to take internet skirmishes to heart. The truth is, you may be taking offense for no good reason. And even if someone really does seem to be out for your blood... who cares? Click away and they're gone. Besides; world is watching. How much of a scene do you want to make?
2. Ditch sarcasm.
Sarcasm really does not translate on internet. Sarcasm is my favorite form of communication, so believe me I've tried. People can't tell by your tone or gestures if you're serious, kidding, scathing, or what, so if you want to communicate effectively and efficiently, steer clear of sarcasm. I'll give you an example of sarcasm causing confusion on internet.
Networker 1: Say, Networker 2, how was that teleseminar you attended?
Networker 2: It was really something special.
"It was really something special." Hmmm. What could that mean, exactly? Sounds a little smart-alecky, but who knows! The reader can't be sure, so a straightforward answer might be better option. "The guy was a good speaker, but I felt like he was telling me things I already knew. I'll have to pick a more advanced course next time." Now, there's a complete answer that's based in fact and well-expressed!
Some people use emoticons to convey when they're being sarcastic, such as smiley :) for "just kidding" , wink ;) which might mean, "I'm just teasing," or guy-with-his-tongue-out :P-- "I know I'm being goofy." Other people use internet gestures, like *grin* and :::shiver:::.
Emoticons are okay for a less formal public forum setting, but not so much for business networking. Use them sparingly. How are you supposed to appear professional if you're throwing (((hugs))) everyone's way? I don't know about you, but I don't go around hugging people I don't know!
All this being said: stick to literal communication whenever possible. I know more than anybody how tough this is. If you're really unsure about it, you can always just be a forum 'lurker' for a while, until you get hang of how it's done. 3. Instead of offering opinions, ask questions.
People love to argue. Make a statement, and by God, someone out there is going to contradict it. If you enjoy and know how to play debate game, take them on... it will be a learning experience for all. But if conflict makes your tummy hurt, you can spur on a discussion in a more genteel way; by asking questions!