When I was seeing someone awhile back, there was virtually – and I mean virtually – no mention of him, or “us” on the Internet. I was quiet as a (dare I say it)… mouse.
Like relationships. Like not blurting to the world about another person’s life – or your own – without thinking first. And then – realizing you are speaking on a permanent. global. forum.
Don’t air your dirty laundry online! Or your brand spanking new clean laundry for that matter!
Internet common sense
Am I trying to take the “social” out of “social media?” Of course not. But consider this:
- When you’ve met someone new, and you’re excited, voice it! But not with so many specifics that if it doesn’t pan out (become the relationship you desire), you’re embarrassed. And so is the other party.
- Don’t use your Facebook relationship status as a flag of sexual availability, flicking it on and off like the turn signal in your car. Single, in a relationship, single, in a relationship. It’s cruel, it’s silly, and it reflects poorly on you.
- Be an adult. Change your relationship status (if you feel you must) when you are certain of it, and when you have spoken to the other person first.
- Yes – I used the “A” word. Adult. If you have a beef with someone, must you really put the specifics online for all to see? Your tiffs, your making up, your bitterness?
- When there’s a breakup, must there be name-calling in a blog, in a series of tweets, in Friending and de-Friending and unending back-and-forth that is (or should be) embarrassing for both of you? And your real-world friends and family?
Discretion (on the Internet) is the better part of valor
Am I proposing that you not freely discuss relationships in your own writing, in a way that helps you sort them out, sharing happiness, allowing others to learn from your experience, or to enjoy vicariously? Not at all.
I am saying you should consider retaining enough details to protect your privacy. Intimate details that can be read by family members – yours and the other party’s – including children, “friends of friends” in our social media circus-universe, not to mention your co-workers, your next employer, and potentially, your next date or lover.
Might I also remind you that if you’re engaged in any legal action, you don’t want to be discussing it in a public forum?
Recall the expression “discretion is the better part of valor?” Speak as you wish, but what’s put on the Internet cannot be taken back. Ever. Perhaps use humor, metaphors, or details with your audience in mind – including a much larger set of eyes and ears than you may consciously realize.
In other words, use discretion. You are publicly broadcasting your life – and others’ lives – as you see them. It may come back to bite you, so discuss in a way that serves to explore, to praise, to inform, to motivate, to educate, to question – and yes – to entertain readers or followers, and gather input if you need it. But mudslinging on the Internet? Hell – our reality TV stars have done it in spades! I find it embarrassing and beneath them. I think it’s High School. And certainly not the better part of valor.
The emperor has no clothes
Sadly, just as people talk over cocktails, or in the locker room, people “talk” over the Internet. Barbs are hurled back and forth through blogs and tweets and Facebook walls. When feelings are involved – hurt feelings – when Jane says John did X, then John says Jane did Y, the whole thing can escalate into a nasty battle that doesn’t belong on the public airwaves. I don’t like it when it’s Jon and Kate Gosselin. I don’t like it from Reality TV stars in their blogs. I don’t respect it, especially if I’ve come to care about Jane and John AnyPerson.
- Talk about feelings? Yes.
- Share in a way that is cathartic or constructive? Certainly.
- Air scenarios to solicit interpretations? Sure.
- Are there exceptions when you need help and details clarify? Of course.
One of the pleasures of this global communication arena is the opportunity to befriend interesting people anywhere. But use discretion. Remember that the world is looking over your shoulder. And if you aren’t judicious in what you say, you may regret it. Not because you did anything “wrong” – but you may inadvertently hurt someone, or be hurt yourself.
Netiquette: Ladies and gentlemen
It may seem old school, but I don’t discuss certain details. I do discuss sex (you may have noticed), but in ways that protect individuals and to a large extent, me. Nor do I discuss current relationships; no, there isn’t one right now, but you wouldn’t know if there was. And I plan to keep it that way.
Yes, I was seeing someone for awhile last year who is a true gentleman. And like a gentleman, he never made himself visible online, respecting my need for privacy and also ensuring ours as we were getting to know each other. While we are no longer dating, we have remained friends in the real world – like adults. We kept what was private, private.
If I’m ever in a long-term, committed relationship, then would I write about it?
Possibly, and I hope with discretion. That’s what works for me. You have to decide what works for you.