7 Ways to Be Kind Online

Wow, oh wow: How much the Interwebz have changed since I removed myself from them a couple of years ago. The big mediums are still around: blogging, Facebook, Twitter (with some additional ones like Pinterest I just can’t seem to want to embrace). But how people interact has changed, and that has caused me to first, adapt; and second, take a good look at my own manners online.

I consider myself a newbie again, and in the process I’ve been surprised at how people I’ve interacted with before — online or offline — don’t always have the best manners online. I try to show grace. I know people are busy. I know how we use social media is different, but good manners never go out of style.

Here’s a few rules I try to live by because of how I’ve seen them break:

1. Keep it friendly. You have every right to your opinion, even if it’s an opposing view. There’s a difference between expressing it and bringing others down by being intentionally defensive/confrontational/unapologetic.

2. Follow through. I’ve had people say “oh, when you post this thing or that thing, I can’t wait to link to it/retweet it/show my world your stuff!” And then they fall off the face of the earth.

3. Answer directly. If someone asks you a question, asks to meet up with you, asks if they can send you their book/album/latest blog post, just give them a direct answer. “Yes, I’d love for you to” or “no, I’m sorry. I just don’t have margin right now to give it a good look.” It takes courage to say no. Man (or woman) it up.

4. Be quick to apologize. I recently discovered I had a few Direct Messages on Twitter that got buried in spam. I saw them when they came in, but they moved way, way down the list. Be honest. Apologize. Make it right when things fall through the cracks.

5. Ask for help. If you truly can’t manage your social media while having good manners, ask for help. Sometimes, I enlist the help of a friend or two to reply to people who just need basic information and nothing specific from me. If I know I can’t reply to email quickly because of travel or deadlines, I turn on an out-of-office response.

6. Acknowledge people. Sometimes when someone contacts you, it doesn’t need a reply, or a simple “thank you” will do. Even if you don’t have time to give them what they need, acknowledge that they’ve reached out to you in some way and point them to someone or a resource that can help them. (If you’re too busy to do this, see Tip #5.)

7. Give yourself — and others — grace. The truth is we will all have things that fall through the cracks. Text messages, emails, Tweets…Realize for every time you’ve had someone not reply to you, you’ve likely not replied to someone. If it’s important, check in with them again and give them some grace. It’s true…what goes around, comes around.

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ajackson@churchleaders.com'
Anne Marie Miller (formerly Jackson) is a writer, speaker, and social change activist who lives in Orange County, California. She also holds the position of Storyteller at Visioneering Studios Architecture.