In the years I’ve been using the web, I’ve learned a thing or two about online communication. Of course, much of what I’ve discovered has been purely by trial and error, and some of those lessons have come at a price.
As a pastor, one of the most common questions I’m asked is, “How do you blog and tweet and Facebook without offending people or turning them off?” My answer: I don’t. There are always people who disagree with my message or stance on some particular issue. The online environment is harsh. People often say things through email and online forums that they’d never say face-to-face. Over time, I’ve put together 10 primary rules that guide my online interactions:
1. Be yourself. Judy Garland put it well when she said, “Always be a first-rate version of yourself, instead of a second-rate version of someone else.” I am who I am. I’m still a work in progress, full of flaws and shortcomings. However, it is to no one’s advantage for me to try and pretend to be something I’m not. I’m pretty comfortable in my own skin, and that’s an important need in online relationships as well as in the real world.
2. Be smart. I assume that everything I say or do online can be tracked and recorded (and probably is). With that in mind, I must be careful how much I share — particularly personal information regarding my family. Use common sense, and err on the side of caution.
3. Be transparent. Transparency is vital for any sort of meaningful relationship. Of course, there are different levels of transparency. You have to be wise in determining your own parameters about what you share about yourself.
4. Be bold. Fence-straddlers are boring. No one wants to read about people who can’t make up their minds on issues that matter. I take bold stands, knowing that some (and perhaps many) will disagree with me. Of those people, some will be deeply offended. I don’t apologize for my positions or my passion. My goal in life is not to be liked by everyone. So far I’m doing pretty good at that one.
5. Be engaging. Interaction is fun! I almost always reply to comments, and I make a point to comment on the writings of others as well. The communication super-highway is designed to be a two-way street.
6. Be informed. I don’t write about things about which I’m clueless. I read a lot and research specifics of particular issues. You should too.
7. Be helpful. I try to be helpful to people in whatever ways I can be. I just see that as an extension of the Golden Rule.
8. Be encouraging. I look for the good in others — even when I disagree with them. And I try to be a ‘builder-upper.’
9. Be respectful. I don’t engage in hateful tirades and character assassinations — even with those who don’t treat me with the same grace. (But I don’t tolerate bullying in any shape or form. And on my blog and social media outlets, I get to decide how far is too far.)
10. Be responsible. I can only be responsible for me. As a follower of Christ, I want to represent Him well. This is the cornerstone of EVERYTHING.
IT’S YOUR TURN!
What are some of your own rules for online communication?