My Rules For Engaging Online

There seems to be an inordinate amount of trolling, negativity & outrage floating around in my little corner of the internet at the moment, or perhaps it has more to do with the tweeps/bloggers I associate with, you know, us outspoken ones, who call a spade a spade and will often be lambasted for it. I have long since realized that just because a person, myself included, has access to the internet, blogs & social media, doesn’t necessarily mean that they actually know how to conduct themselves online. Kind of like a 3 year old on a bicycle, just because they have their own bicycle doesn’t mean that they will know how to ride that bicycle, they will have to practice and learn and make mistakes and fall and get up and try again, until they’ve perfected the art of riding the bicycle. Much the same as those of us using the internet and conversing online need to grow & learn & make mistakes and get better at how we conduct ourselves online. Of course, that only applies to those of us who are mature enough to realize this.

Over the years of blogging, Facebooking & Tweeting, I have made mistakes, I’ve been involved in horrible online spats, I’ve been the victim of trolling, I have subtweeted & been on the receiving end of subtweets. But as my online persona has matured I’ve started setting more and more ground rules for how I conduct myself online that this has allowed me to tune out the noise that is very often social media.

Here are my rules/thoughts for conducting myself online:

1. Absolutely NO Subtweeting!

A tweet (message posted on the website Twitter) that mentions a Twitter member without using their actual username. Usually employed for negative or insulting tweets; the person you’re mentioning won’t see the subtweet in their Twitter timeline as it doesn’t contain the @ symbol that every Twitter username has.

As tempting as it is, especially when I’m hurt or angry, I’ve learned, from making this mistake myself and watching others do it, that subtweeting says WAY more about the subtweeter than about the person they’re trying to take a dig at. It’s childish and ugly and completely unnecessary, it serves no purpose, other than for those reading it to loose a little bit of respect for you each time you do it.

If I’m angry about something and feel compelled to tweet about it, I always ask myself whether my tweet can be misconstrued as a subtweet.

2. No knee jerk reactions!

And this is a toughie, because I’m all about the knee jerk! But I am getting better and better at stepping away from a situation, thinking about it and weighting up whether or not it is even worth a response and if a response is necessary, being able to do so in a calm, non confrontational way.

You should see the list of blog drafts I have. When I’m furious about something or hurt about something and I have a need to lash out, I will sit in front of my laptop and furiously bang out a blog post about whatever it is that has hurt/upset/offended me. But those blog posts NEVER see the front end of my blog, they are never published because no matter how angry I am at the time, I will calm down, I will stop feeling angry and then I probably will feel really stupid about what I posted and how I presented myself.

Or unfriend someone on Facebook because they made you angry, you’re only making yourself look like an indignant child & if you resolve your issue with that person, boy are you going to feel like an idiot when you have to sheepishly send them a new friend request. Besides what does the unfriending do anyway? People are smart enough to realize you are angry with them without resorting to the online version of a three year old’s tantrum.

3. Tone is everything!

And can be so easily misinterpreted when communicating in a written format. There is no body language, no facial expression or volume to the written word, which does mean it can easily be misinterpreted so I’ve learned to be careful about what I write and how I write it in an attempt to not be misunderstood. There are certain phrases etc that everyone knows are intended as sarcasm or discord, so I try to avoid saying things like #justsaying unless I really am being sarcastic about something.

4. Don’t feed the trolls!

Oh the trolls! I have learned a hard lesson about trolls. I still have one little troll who follows me, its been going on for years now. I’ve learned to laugh about it, each time I find her under a new nickname in my Twitter followers or blog subscribers, I must really be fascinating and interesting for this woman to be that obsessed with me for so long! (and yes, that is absolute sarcasm you detect in my tone #justsaying 🙂 )<—- see what I did there???

But I learned a long time ago, the more I tried to defend myself against this woman & her team of school yard bullies, the more their appalling behavior escalated.  Don’t feed the trolls. Don’t entertain their comments, block, delete, ignore. Set your blog so that anonymous comments have to be moderated. Trace IP addresses and block them. Discourage your readers from getting involved with the troll too, the trolls need no encouragement and really get off on our outrage and indignation at the venom they spew. But when you ignore them, they go away!

P.S. I don’t believe Chis Scovitch was a troll, I think he is genuinely a racist bigot from the land of the free who felt he was entitled to spread his hate speech on my blog.

5. Don’t share stupidity!

When you come across a moron, don’t share their stupidity. I was utterly astounded with the whole FHM/rape joke debacle on Twitter yesterday, people were actually sharing the Twitter handles of the two, now suspended journalists. WHY? Why give them more air time? Why drive potential followers to them? Why increase their digital footprint & clout?

6. Don’t automatically climb on the bandwagon!

Check the facts of anything you see doing the rounds before retweeting or sharing. I am so bored of seeing the same old same old privacy hoaxes etc being spread around social media. Use Google, google the warnings, you’ll be amazed at how many websites there are dedicating to sniffing out a hoaxes.

These are my rules for conducting myself online. Of course, rules are made to be broken, and I am self aware enough to know that I break my own rules from time to time, but I try to stick with these rules and they have helped to make me feel better about my online persona and staying out of the drama or being in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons.

What are your rules, if any, for conducting yourself online?




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  • Reply Julia

    I have MANY and a number of them are similar to yours.
    No subtweeting – I have never subtweeted anyone in my life. I say this not to brag but to let people know that it can be done. No idea whether I’ve been the victim of one either.
    No knee-jerk reactions – I also have TONS of unpublished writing. I write a post in the morning and publish it in the evening. In this way I’ve had time to calm down and, if necessary, to mentally edit the piece in my head if I decide that it’s going to be published.
    Tone is everything – I am all about the tone and I’ve written about this extensively on my blog. I truly believe that it is not WHAT you say but HOW you say it. I am EXTREMELY careful with my words. I would rather not comment if I am unsure of how something will come across.
    I don’t ever share stupidity or give it a platform on my blog.
    I have never received an ugly, negative, anon comment on my blog but I DO know that I will block that sh*t in it’s tracks.
    I believe that one’s words (as a commenter and as a blogger) must have love written all over them. I usually ask myself these questions before I comment: What is the context, Is it fair, is it necessary, is it kind, does it add something positive, does it encourage, does it smack of judgement, and I ALWAYS ask myself how I would feel if I had to read a comment like that on my blog.

    July 17, 2013 at 12:08 pm
  • Reply Laura

    No 6 is a big big one for me. It happens so quickly! Also trolls don’t get a second glance from me – EVER! I don’t even acknowledge them!

    July 17, 2013 at 1:12 pm
  • Reply Vanessa

    Hi Sharon
    I received your request on LinkedIn, but so long ago since I’ve logged in I can’t remember my password. I have included my email address and you can contact me through that. Please don’t publish my email address.
    I guess you may be looking for the trolls?
    I browser your blog to stay in touch with your updates, I remember you from fertilicare. We chatted a couple of times. We too have adopted and so I love to hear your experiences.

    July 17, 2013 at 2:38 pm
  • Reply jenny

    Your rules are good rules. I am quite circumspect on Twitter as I represent my brand and try not to get involved. Facebook is more me but then I am quite selective about who I am friends with there. I have defriended people but they are people I have no interest in being friends with in real life. I do want to subtweet and I get angry – I guess we all do as humans but eventually it passes. I just don’t dwell on it like a lot of people seem to. And the outrage, it’s so tiring and fake for me. As for trolls, it’s the reason I don’t blog. I am not sure I could ignore them but it is definitely the best thing to do!

    July 17, 2013 at 2:57 pm
  • Reply Fairy Girl

    I love that you are so outspoken, it makes YOU – YOU ;). I quit the blogging world for many a reason and am tempted to quit twitter too but I’m still thinking about that one. I love your blog!

    July 17, 2013 at 5:04 pm
  • Reply Vanessa

    So true…and when I do decide to blog (watch this space) I shall definitely keep your points as advice. For me the most difficult is the knee-jerk reaction. I gave myself a 24 hour rule a few years ago when I ran the book fair. I would regularly receive emails than stopped just short of blaming me for the country’s low reading and literacy rate and worse. Its amazing how much grace and dignity I was able to bring to something that I answered 24 hours later.

    carry on the good work.

    Vanessa B

    July 17, 2013 at 6:10 pm
  • Reply cat@jugglingact

    Wise words

    July 18, 2013 at 9:27 am
  • Reply The One About Being An Example To My Children | The Blessed Barrenness

    […] questions I’ve begun to ask myself. It’s for this reason that I created my own little rule book for conducting myself online. Do I always stick to my rules? No. When I tweet, I’m always mindful of how my tweet will be […]

    July 29, 2013 at 2:14 pm
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