Have you ever come across a nice blog, a Facebook post or a tweet that you agreed with a 100%? Have you ever experienced scrolling down to the end and reading comments that other people have provided in the comments or reaction sections? Have you ever thought – wow, here I was thinking everyone would agree with this information because it is succinct, based on research or just the right thing to do as a good human being and yet you find expletives, rude and harassing comments or people asking the person to ‘shut up’ and that ‘no one cares what they think’?
I have often had that happen when reading a post or an article on the web. Scrolling down I find rude, harassing and sometimes downright awful words people post that if said in person face to face would destroy the person’s social scene – and yet they are posted! Freely! Online! Without any reserve, any filter and any thought for the other person’s feelings or thoughts. I am sure we all have some idea of why that is – the anonymity that the World Wide Web provides us, also provides us the opportunity to avoid being held accountable for rude, harassing, and hurtful words. Often my instinct is to answer to some of these people using some condescending words that put them in their place. But I stop myself. I am sure you have heard this said before but my mother used to say that if we stoop down to the same level of someone who is impetuous and hurtful then there is no difference between them and us. I know it does not feel satisfying or even fair for that matter but it is true.
One addition that I made over the years was the fact that the way we handle things is being watched by our youngsters. What I do today is being watched by my niece, my nephews, my friend’s kids, and their friends. If I decide to jump on a reaction buggy and follow through with it then I encourage the younger generations to do the same. That is not going to cause any change in the etiquettes that are already not being followed by some very immature people out there, who hide behind internet provided anonymity and say (type) things that are rude, hurtful, and mostly not even true.
When I started blogging a year and a half ago, we were asked to keep a few things in mind that I note here for all our benefit:
- Be respectful – no matter whether I am trying to disagree or refute a point, being respectful is a basic skill in social interactions that should be obvious. I just think of it this way – if I type this will the person reading it want to punch me virtually?
- Be kind – No one pays taxes on being kind. Words, said or read have an impact that can be beyond repair. No one knows this better than counselors. Isn’t that why we pick our words in session with kindness and intentionality?!
- THINK – I am sure some of you have come across this before. The acronym stands for – True, Helpful, Inspiring, Necessary, and Kind. Sometimes it is just OK to say nothing. Every statement does not “need” a reaction. Additionally, if one is reacting one is not really thinking.
- No anonymity – Always take for granted that someone somewhere can figure out who you are. Ask yourself, will I be ashamed if someone does find out I said so?
- Erasing not allowed – before posting anything I always think twice (maybe even three or four times) that what I am writing and posting can and never will be erased. It can always be found or will appear somewhere for no reason. And I question whether I want to be held responsible for what I said, the words I used. Do I stand by what I say?
Now, you may be wondering how this applies to counselors. First, it is always wise to think carefully when, where, and what we express. Second, I have worked with clients before who have been cyber bullied or have perpetrated bullying via social media. A variety of times I came across the realization that when in early teenage these individuals were allowed to start using social media, they were not provided any guidelines for internet etiquette. Now with the awareness and victimization being observed via cyber bullying there are various articles and pieces on how to educate your kids or students on these important etiquettes and the real-life consequences that may occur as a result of not following them. We as counselors also have a responsibility to our clients to know more about issues that come up as a result of internet provided anonymity. The way we conduct ourselves on social media says not only a lot about us as individuals but also us as professional counselors. If we decide to role model some of our communication skills via social media, maybe we can create a ripple effect for individuals who do not have any guidance to learn from. That shouldn’t be so difficult, right?!
Jyotsana Sharma is a Doctoral Candidate, Counselor, Educator, and human being in the making. Visit her website at: www.jyots21.wordpress.com or find her on twitter @jyots21s.