There’s one thing that anyone who’s been online for more than a couple of days is acutely aware of: People will say things online that they would never say in person. Bad things. Hurtful things. Some of them will hide behind anonymous user names or semi-anonymous user names when they do it.
Terms like “trolling” and “flaming” are all about people saying things they shouldn’t be saying. The only difference between now and when there was no “online” is that what you say today is usually in some form of text instead of other forms of speech. You leave little pieces of yourself everywhere you go online and what you say can get you into trouble in more ways than I can count.
Most people online have no idea who or what you are. Sure, there’s always some who do, but only a tiny part of all the people who get online. For everyone else, they only know you by what you say or do. Mostly by what you say in text form.
I hate to get all biblical on you, but I want to reference something that was said in it. See this page if you care to read something historical. Basically, people have said and done things they shouldn’t (even when they know they shouldn’t) for well over 2000 years.
I’m as guilty as the next person. I’ve said things in messages, comments and other areas that I’m not proud of. Most were responses generated by anger. I can’t always control what I say, so I avoid saying anything at all most of the time, especially on the social networks.
If you run a business online, what you say online can cost you customers. A case in point: I was accused of doing something I shouldn’t be doing in an open forum at a web hosting site several year ago. The accusation offended me and I moved all of my websites to another web hosting service. The one I moved to is the one I’m still using.
In some countries, you can be sued for what you say online. Well, you can be sued for almost anything almost anywhere, but some countries have specific laws about it. Places like the Philippines, where I live.
I’ve found the easiest way to control what I say online is by making sure my name is on everything I say. My real name. It works for me because I have a website I want people to visit and articles I want them to read.
The hardest way to control what you say online is by remaining anonymous or pseudo-anonymous. If no one knows who you are, there aren’t any repercussions. Or so you think. There will always be repercussions even if you think there won’t be. If nothing else, what you say can affect you personally.
There’s an old phrase, and forgive me if I screw it up, that sums up my thoughts on the matter. “If you don’t have anything nice to say, then don’t say anything at all.”