I’ve been posting on the internet for years in various places, mostly craft sites, but also some financial and sports sites. In the early days, I didn’t understand the whole “cyber personality” thing, and I’m sure I probably offended a lot of people. Why? Because I have a very dark sense of humor that requires facial expressions and hand gestures to really “get” my meaning.
Non-verbal communication is lost on the internet. So, if I say something to you that I mean to be funny, and you can’t see my facial expression, the joke can be misunderstood and you might take offense. I don’t realize that you’ve taken offense, because I can’t “see” your reaction, so I don’t have the opportunity to make an apology or explain myself.
On the internet, you are at the mercy of your writing skills. On the internet, you have to plan ahead. It’s kind of like teaching. When I am planning an activity with my students, I have to be able to imagine all of the outcomes of the activity before we begin. Do I give them the glue before or after I give them the paper? If I give them the glue before, it may end up in places I couldn’t have imagined. You get the picture.
I bring this up because I see people putting hoof-in-mouth on the internet all the time (me included). And I see people becoming unreasonably offended, as well. Since I am very adept at both (long after I wrote this, I realized someone could possibly take this the wrong way, lol. I mean I am adept at putting hoof in mouth AND being unreasonably offended), I feel I can give some advice, so here goes:
Advice to the hoof-in-mouth folks:
1. When someone asks your opinion, make sure you answer for yourself only. Example question: What do you think of face lifts? Good answer: I wouldn’t get a facelift because I’d be afraid of the outcome. Possibly offensive answer: I don’t think women should get facelifts because it makes them look like freaks.
2. If you are in a bad mood, you probably ought to refrain from comment.
3. If you decide to comment anyway, re-read before pressing the post icon. Think about the ramifications of your comment.
Advice to easily offended or easily annoyed folks:
1. Lighten up. You have probably been misunderstood on the internet before.
2. Remember, most people want to say the right thing and be a contributing part of the group. But, people are human – including you. We all make mistakes.
3. Everyone has their own cyber personality. Some cyber personalities are social and friendly, some are analytical, some are funny, some are opinionated. It’s what makes the cyber world turn.
Most importantly, on whatever side of the fence you are standing, please don’t start a 4th grade girls’ club. In the teaching world, we are always discouraged when our delightful little 2nd and 3rd grade girls become 4th graders and start developing clicks, because we know it’s just the beginning of a, sadly, long and winding road.