Type Softly & Carry a Big Stick

To paraphrase Teddy Roosevelt, “type softly and carry a big stick; what you type will go far”. Part of why Millennials are given a bad rep is because regardless of the fact that we are all legal adults at this point, some of us still act like immature, five-year-olds — many do so for the entire world to see on the stages laid out in front of us thanks to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other social media and networking outlets. Unfortunately, it is when we act irresponsibly and immaturely in public that older generations seem to take note. Older generations aren’t even the only ones who think we lack ethics online. Last week my fellow TNGG writer, Federico Pieracci, pointed out that when u write like dis, you look “like an absolute tool”. In today’s technologically driven, web-based world, we are what we type and post — both socially and professionally.

Facebook, LinkedIn & Twitter are all great tools — they are integral parts of many of our lives and all three should be used for their different purposes. Facebook is a great tool to stay in touch with people you (hopefully) know. It can be a great help when planning events, sharing pictures and keeping tabs on friends that live far away. LinkedIn is wonderful to help find jobs and stay connected with others in your industry; it’s also somewhere you might not want to update your status with every waking thought you have. Twitter is a bit more of a free-for-all; it is a place to share random thoughts, interesting articles, commenting on the live awards show and for stirring debates with virtual strangers. When scrolling through our various news feeds, people look for articles and comments that are going to interest them, not bored them to death — personally, I prefer posts that are going to make me think a little. (I’m not saying that you can never post to all at once, I’m obviously going to post a link to this article on all three of my profiles – but that’s because it works for all three audiences.)

Many are aware of the line that can be crossed by sharing TMI (too much information). While the line can be a thin one, and one that varies depending on the audience, some people have no problem ignoring the line and catapulting well beyond it. People do NOT want to read about what you and your significant other did in the privacy of your bedroom (nor do they care if you were able to find a new place to do it). While the TMI line is a widely known one, perhaps a more important line is the one drawn by what netiquette deems appropriate.

The golden rule of netiquette is to be smart. In the same way you need to filter some thoughts so they don’t come out of your mouth and offend others, make sure the same is done before you type something that you can’t take back. Recently Carrie James, of Harvard University, conducted a study which showed that young people lack online ethics. When you think about it, doesn’t it make sense? Why wouldn’t the same ethical norms in societies hold true online? The internet has given us a privilege, one that allows us access to more knowledge and resources then previous generations.

As with many privileges, this tends to become abused when people think they can have anything they want, with one click of the mouse, and of course it’s all expected to be free. It is not socially acceptable by most to walk into a store and steal a CD from the shelf, so why is it OK to download the music illegally online? Piracy of music and movies are not the only ways that things are stolen online. Ideas and work are becoming easier to plagiarize with such rampant googling skills that Millennials learn when trying to find information they are looking for — plagiarism can even be found in 140-characters or less on Twitter.

Netiquette extends beyond our actions to what we post online as well, especially when you forget who your audience is — everyone. Employers and schools are using social media sites to watch over what their employees and students, both current and future, have done and are doing. It is possible to get fired because of Facebook. Making a statement about hating your boss and job aren’t the only thing that can do it, you don’t want to call out sick and then post pictures of you at a party instead either.

Don’t forget, the Library of Congress is archiving all public tweets and there is no time limit on how long sites with your name on them will appear in Google search results (my high school track results from 10 years ago are still there). So, before you decide to tweet your next thought, ask yourself is this something that you’d be OK with if your grandma, boss and children 20 years from now see? Safe bet, if it passes that test, it won’t do you much damage.

**picture from World New Australia

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