I have often said that interaction on-line gives participants a virtual armor. Some become “braver” than their real life personas — brave enough to throw words as demeaning as their vocabularies could muster. We all have the right to say what we want; but not all things are worth saying. There is a thin line between commenting and “pang-o-okray”.
Growing up in the 70’s, I often saw questions labelled “The Four-Way Test” posted at intersections and mounted on walls. The Rotarian ethical guide works even in the digital age. Before you join the hottest discussion on your Facebook timeline or write that burning blog entry, ask yourself these questions.
1. Are you telling a genuine truth? State a fact. Do not pass on hearsay. Do not generalize. Do not use curse words and slurs.
2. Are you being fair? Express your opinion after spending a few moments in other guy’s shoes. Be a devil’s advocate to yourself before you click that button.
3. Are you building goodwill? Expressing indignation does not have to be a hellish spiral into anarchy. Select words that inspire action and empathy not hate and derision.
4. Will your comment help the receiver be better? And perhaps more important still, will you become a more evolved human being by saying those words?
A hundred years from now, when your descendants research you, they won’t go to books and sepia photographs. To retrace your life, they will probably get a download of your Facebook timeline, your Chrome browser history and all the comments you have ever made. Considering what you have contributed on-line so far, do you think they will be proud?