Modern gents embrace the digital but do it with decorum…
1. Don’t Think It’ll Magically Disappear
Perversely, given that the Internet is made up of invisible ones and zeroes beamed wirelessly through our lives, it has a lot more permanence and reach than actual physical objects ever did. Back in the day if you wrote a nasty letter or posed for a nude photo, it was possible to destroy the only copy and erase it from existence. At worst, it’d have to be physically copied and shared by someone who meant to do you harm by showing you at your worst. These days a Facebook comment or Instagram photo can reach millions upon millions of strangers in mere seconds – and there’s no way to ever take it back or stop it from being shared exponentially. Put simply, anything you say or do publicly on the Internet – or via text or email – could potentially haunt your days for the rest of your life. Think of that comment about your boss, that possibly sexist or racist joke, that photo of you and your girl getting busy and now imagine it being potentially being seen by everyone you know or will ever know. That’s only a slight exaggeration because everyone – from prospective partners to potential employers – Googles or Facebook-searches everyone to find out who they are. You know you do it. Imagine if you were checking a job applicant’s social media and saw him pants down at a music festival. Would he get the job over someone with a clean social media account? Now apply that same logic to what you do digitally. There’s no end of stories about careers and reputations that have been ruined by stupid comments or embarrassing photos. You don’t have to self-censor. Say and do whatever the hell you like. Just be aware, to paraphrase Gladiator, that what we do digitally today echoes forever through e-ternity.
2. Don’t Post Angry (or Drunk)
The Internet is all about immediacy. People get fired up fast and fire back furiously. Don’t be one of them unless you want to face the fate outlined above. Seeing something in your Facebook or Twitter timelines that makes you outraged is a daily, possibly hourly, occurrence. With your blood up, you might be tempted to lash out, add your hatred and unleash a string of swear words. One word: don’t. As in actual F2F life, the best thing to do is to take a deep breath, divert your attention elsewhere and come back to the post when you’ve calmed down and have a clearer head. Nine times out of ten it won’t seem worth wasting your energy on by responding at all. The world isn’t waiting to hear your opinion on any person or issue. If you do still want to comment, at least you’ll be doing it from a more reasonable – and possibly humourous – place.
3. Don’t Make Borderline Jokes
You and your mates aren’t sexist, racist or homophobic or any of those things. You make jokes that are ironic and anyone who doesn’t get that doesn’t have a sense of humour! Whether that’s true or a load of rationalisation is up to you to decide. But know this – approximately 93 per cent of human communication is non-verbal. So if you’re at the pub and sending up racism with a seemingly racist comment then your intimate audience of good mates get it because they know you well and they can see your eye roll and hear your sarcastic tone and appreciate what you really mean in the context of the existing conversation. Now try that with a 140-character tweet or a Facebook photo that reaches mainly strangers. Sure, if you’re a gifted comedian then people are going to get the joke. But if you’re not then you risk opening the floodgates of fury and being labeled a racist. It happened to someone as clever as Patton Oswalt when he posted a series of two-part tweets in which the first one appeared to say something awful only for the second one to deliver the ironic punchline. The watchword here is: beware. If you think there’s a chance your joke is ambiguous and open to misinterpretation then think twice about posting it.
4. Don’t Abuse Defensively or Offensively
Don’t feed the trolls is the admittedly controversial advice that stands as the prevailing wisdom about how to deal with abuse and hatred on the Internet. It’s not perfect – anyone who’s seriously hated on and/or subjected to threats of violence or rape is well within their rights to respond, block and/or report the offenders to the police. But in the majority of cases fighting back with abuse is giving the troll exactly what he or she wants: attention. You can’t win the argument because these people don’t care about your feelings, opinions, the facts or the truth. They’re shit-stirrers who take malevolent glee in riling you up. Block. Ignore. Move on with your life and take what comfort you can from knowing you’re winning by denying them what they want. It should go without saying that you should never be the troll. Do not abuse anyone on the Internet, particularly in regard to their gender, sexual preference, race, ethnicity, religion or appearance. You are free to disagree with other people’s opinions. But do it respectfully and without personal attacks. Also know this: you’re extremely unlikely to change anyone’s minds about anything. Few people go onto the Internet in any way shape or form to find views that confront their own. It’s one of social media’s echo-chamber flaws.
5. Don’t Mistake It For Real Life
Think about your social media posts. Do you usually put up selfies when you’re hungover, unshaven, feeling bloated and wearing your crappy old flanny pyjamas? Do you craft a series of tweets about how your job is so boring at the moment and you wished you’d stayed at uni and finished that finance degree? Are you in the habit of posting photos of the bland hotel room you managed to get on the tropical beach that’s now engulfed in non-stop monsoonal drizzle? How about out-of-focus pictures of the crappy bacon-and-egg roll you got from the servo on your morning commute because you overslept? If the answer’s no then remember to apply that same logic to what you see from your social media friends and acquaintances. They, too, are “curating” their lives so that they look and sound their best most of the time. Life isn’t always perfect hair, awesome nights out, glamourous sun-drenched holidays and amazeballs smashed avo and prosciutto brekkies.
6. Don’t Live Your Life For Likes
Next time you go near a tourist attraction, try this experiment. Find a vantage point where you can watch people arrive. Now count how many of them turn up to the view/artwork/monument/caged animal with their phones raised, already filming or photographing a site they’re seeing for the first time. Now ask yourself how many of them go home and watch those videos or gaze at those photos except to post them up to their social media in attempt to get the adulation of others. In recording the moment, they’ve actually missed it. So here’s an idea: live your life first, record it second. Enjoy the experience for yourself first. Then turn your attention to capturing it for others. For instance, if there’s only time to take in the sunset or take a photo of it, choose the former because you’ll always have it as an experience and the latter will never do it justice anyway.