10 Rules for Online Communication

June 6, 2012 — 15 Comments

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.

What are some of your own rules for online communication?

15 responses to 10 Rules for Online Communication


    Excellent reminders of best practices in written communication, including the witness we must have for Christ in our blogging. My mother’s words of wisdom about writing… “never write something about someone in your diary (applies to blogging, too) that you would not want them to read.” Thanks for a great post.


    Excellent ! But what is the “Golden Rule”, question 7 ?


      The Golden Rule stems from the words of Jesus as recorded in Scripture (Matt. 7:12; Luke 6:31): Do to others as you would have them do to you (paraphrased). You can read more about the Golden Rule on Wikipedia.


    BE PARANOID AND SUSPICIOUS! Doesn’t sound scriptural on the surface, but it is, and it pays. In other words, don’t accept things you read or (more importantly) have sent to you, as ACCURATE! Go for the prime sources, if possible. Also, use SNOPES!

    Matthew 10:16 applies….


      You’re exactly right, Buddy. I’ve found that many people don’t like having their false info being brought to light. And with good reason, I suppose, because those things are usually very dramatic, provocative, and compelling.


    I really enjoyed this, Garrick. Excellent. So glad I subscribed to your blog.


    Reblogged this on Three Days to Anarchy and commented:
    This blog post is from a friend of mine. Check him out.


    Because we don’t have the added communication tools that we rely on heavily in face- to- face interactions — ie: tone, inflection, body language, facial expressions…we should be slow to assume the worst and quick to assume the best. If something sounds like a dig at you, clarify with the writer of said dig before letting your emotions take over. 9 times out of 10, it probably wasn’t written as a personal insult aimed specifically at you.


      Very, very wise words indeed. I think most of us have at one time or another been on both sides of that situation. We extend grace to one another when we ‘believe the best.’ Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to share your thoughts.


        I appreciate your encouragement in regards to my marriage at my site. Some days, I just really need to hear a hopeful comment.
        As for misunderstandings, I just witnessed a huge one between two people I consider my on-line friends. It was a hard thing to watch, but in the end, it was this exact argument that calmed everyone down. We instinctively know how to “read” a person when they’re talking, quite separate from just the words spoken. Of course we are going to misunderstand printed words sometimes! So, assuming quickly that something is getting lost in the translation as opposed to someone purposely offending you should keep most of us out of hot water.

        Thank you, again for visiting my site! I am enjoying yours!


    Reblogged this on 5 G's and a Cup of Joe and commented:
    Good Sunday Morning Joes and Janes;

    I am reblogging a short article; 10Rules for Online Communication. An excellent reminder for anyone using Facebook, blogs, tweets or any other online communication methods.

Trackbacks and Pingbacks:

  1. Social Media’s Golden Rule « joshchalmers - June 20, 2012

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