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Want to Avoid Internet Idiocy? Jessica Meehan (CLAS ’06) Shares Six Tips

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Jessica Meehan (CLAS ’06), @Jessica_Meehan

FUN FACT: U.Va. students were among the first to have Facebook access. I joined Facebook on April 13, 2004, as a 2nd year. Facebook launched 2 months earlier, so I’ve known Facebook since it was in diapers. Unlike current teens, I was lucky enough to not have my awkward high school years OR my freshman 15 (FYI don’t believe the hype — Nutella is NOT a nutritional dietary staple) documented on Facebook. I thank God every day for this.

I’m sure other OFs (Original Facebookers) out there share my thankfulness for not having digital permanent records of these periods of our lives out there. However, as a trade-off of sorts, we have had to learn by trial and error what was and was not appropriate internet behavior. Being early adopters makes us look really cool at times, but it can also make us look like really big idiots when we misstep.

Don’t be one of those idiots. There are enough chances to look like an idiot in everyday reality that you don’t need to take the chance of looking like one on the internet. Here are a few tips to avoid idiocy on the internet.

1.) Tone is all in your head. General rule of thumb is to write internet content at an eighth-grade reading level. I’m sure we all learned how to identify tone in writing at some point in high school English. But don’t assume everyone made it to high school English. And remember: those works we read on tone were wayyyyy longer than 140 characters. Beware of sarcasm. I can’t stand sarcasm. Can’t you tell?

2.) Stroke your ego. Monitor yourself. Want to know what the world is saying about you? Of course you do. No need to be modest here. If you want to know what trail of crumbs you’re leaving on the internet, set up a Google Alert for yourself. It’s simple. Google “Google Alerts” and take it from there. Come on, you’re part of the U.Va. community, you can figure this out.

3.) Just because your posts and photos aren’t shared publicly, doesn’t mean they won’t be shared publicly. So your Twitter account is private, and only your friends can see your Facebook profile and pictures. SO WHAT? Don’t believe for a second that your friends/colleagues/boyfriend/sorority sister/dog walker won’t share your “private” thoughts, images and videos with the world – intentionally or not. Maybe you’re thinking, “I can erase it later if I need to.” First, shame on you for ending your thought with a preposition. Second, anyone can take a screenshot with the press of a button and float it off into the cloud for later reference. I’m not saying you should become paranoid; just be more thoughtful of what you share online — and with whom.

4.) Give credit where credit is due. Nobody likes having their thunder stolen. Because online time stamps can easily prove that you did not, in fact, come up with that witty line/keen observation first, you should probably just go ahead and give props to the person whom is funnier/smarter/faster than you.

5.) Think before you post. Before you post, consider whether you would yell the same statement on a crowded subway car full of strangers. Would you say that to your grandmother? Would you like your boyfriend’s mother to see you take a keg stand while accidentally flashing your underwear? These are just a few of the scenarios you should consider before hitting “Post.” Make up your own really uncomfortable scenario as you see fit. In the immortal words of Ice Cube, “Check yo’self before you wreck yo’self.”

6.) Don’t take insults personally. Some criticism on the internet is constructive and well thought out. Most is not. People will write all sorts of things that they wouldn’t say to your face. And if they would, they probably deserve at least a little slap. Take a deep breath, shake it off, and if you feel like you need to respond, be the bigger, more eloquent person.

Kids these days (did I just say that!?), don’t have to make the same mistakes as we did “in my day.” Facebook has been around for almost a decade now. YouTube is almost eight years old. Twitter is creeping up on four years of life. No more excuses. You should know better.

(Feature image by GmPsd)

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