I’m not attempting to insult the intelligence of veterans of the Internet and email, so bear with me. I’m probably preaching to the choir here anyway. I’ll try not to be too blunt but sometimes being too polite doesn’t help.
In the hope of trying to help neophytes and those who could have learned a little after a year or two on the Web, here are nine basic rules for the Internet and email. At very least, you should be able to pick up on how to save yourselves some heartburn and/or embarrassment. And who doesn’t want to avoid that?
First, get rid of the belief that you are unteachable. If you truly are, it’s because you’ve probably made yourself that way. That’s not why God put you on earth, so you need to give up that attitude. Use the abilities you were given, senior moments and all. (There isn’t one of us who will escape those, even if we aren’t already well on the path.) The Parable of the Talents in the Holy Bible (Matthew 25: 14-30) was written down for a reason. It isn’t just talking about old-time money but literal talents as we understand them today. Please understand I’m not talking about being made to do something that truly terrifies you, like public speaking, or letting spiders walk on you. That falls into the category of bullying.
Rule #1: You read and post on the World Wide Web at your own risk! Decide with care. No one’s going to hold an adult’s hand for long, so learn to be discriminating. Especially do not click on every pop-up or pop-under that you see. If you don’t know who the company really is, just click the X in the top right corner of the ad to shut the thing down. It may have a transparent border, so also look for an X that seems to be floating. Don’t click the Yes or No buttons. The scammers have got you either way when you do that.
Rule #2: When posting to a website, never use all caps! Sometimes, it’s hard not to do that when we’re super-excited about a topic but it’s very rude and the Web will kick your butt every time. It’s the equivalent of standing 6 inches away from other people and shouting in their faces even before you’ve brushed your teeth. Seriously.
Rule #3: Always create in Notepad, Word or other word processing program before copying and pasting to the Internet. You can even write out your sentences in longhand first and then edit them.
Rule #4: Always spell check using a good dictionary, as well as the one Microsoft provides. (Word doesn’t always come up with the appropriate choice but at least use the ABC icon as a starting point.) You don’t want other people to ROFL or upchuck over your wrong choices instead of taking you seriously. And as your English prof probably said, you need to know basic grammar before you break the rules intentionally instead of through ignorance.
Rule #5: Let your writing sit for an hour or a day and reread it before posting anywhere public or hitting the Send button in your email client. Did you really want to say what you said? Many will snicker if you skip this step. Or they will rage at you. Neither is much fun but you could take your choice.
As for foul language, an educated person only needs to use it on extremely rare occasions, not with every post online. If you’re a dummkopf, you’ll have to clean up on your own or go to night school and expand your vocabulary. And speaking of dummkopfs, it goes without saying that if you allow indecent pictures of yourself, it’s your own fault when they wind up on the Internet. Show some respect for your own body.
Rule #6: Most of what is posted these days – on Facebook or other group sites – is not original content. It was forwarded from somewhere else, or an excerpt deliberately links to somewhere else. Hover your mouse over the link before clicking it and look around your entire screen to see where you’re about to go. The url will show up in different places, sometimes across the bottom of your screen.
Rule #7: Follow such links at your own risk. Sometimes what you find won’t match your own a priori opinions or beliefs, let alone your definition of decency, decorum, or even dirty laundry – for those of you who think everything should be swept under the rug. Arriving with a clear mind is the most helpful until you get the hang of things. For example, some sites are always vulgar; others frequently are. You will learn fast, hopefully from the first visit.
Rule #8: Visit the Port of Los Angeles, preferably in a chopper, or find a news report about the area, to view freighters loaded with full shipping containers of really dirty laundry. They will stretch miles out into international waters if there’s any kind of dispute going on. The conditions under which a large percentage of imported products are put together too often support servitude, slavery, and human trafficking.
As with any other nasty situation – like elder abuse – something often needs to be dragged out into the open and written about. God bless properly trained investigative reporters, even when they’re being a pain in the patooties! Were it not for them, there would be little to no help, nor hope, nor justice for the abused anywhere.
Rule #9: Don’t feed the trolls! They have an insatiable appetite for causing trouble on all sides of any issue. Don’t take the bait when the same people throw vitriol out there day after day. Their posts will die faster if the rest of us focus on helping make the world a better place.