I give a lot of advice about online stuff like web content, writing and social media. And sometimes people even listen.
When I distill all the advice I’ve ever given about online behavior, it all comes down to common sense, which may have become something of an oxymoron.
- I’d have certainly advised Abercrombie & Fitch’s CEO not to say some things that have upset a lot of folks and reportedly causes their sales to plummet. Can’t say I’m sorry. Though he’s tried a couple of times to apologize, you can’t really put the toothpaste back in the tube, can you? Common sense lesson: Don’t be mean, nasty and insulting if you want to sell stuff. More about Abercrombie here.
- It’s not smart to blast every detail of your life online. Don’t fight with your boyfriend/girlfriend/spouse on Twitter or Facebook, or post overly graphic descriptions of icky medical conditions. It’s way TMI. Common sense lesson: we don’t really need to see your dirty laundry.
- Some people spend hours poring over online privacy policies to determine what to post where. I have a lack of patience that makes this nearly impossible for me, so I assume everything I post online is public. Common sense lesson: If you want to keep something secret, don’t tell anyone. Tell your dog when no one else is home.
With the recent spate of social media failures, I wonder if, as we become more sophisticated, common sense seems to slip away. Celebrities openly feud on Twitter, corporations post insensitive and self-serving content during times of tragedy, and teenagers document activities that would get them grounded if their parents had the common sense to follow them online. And, really, how many more public celebrity meltdowns must we endure?
There’s nothing smart and trendy about rudeness and bullying. While you may get a laugh or two in the short run, you won’t earn respect or trust.
Everything I know about how to act online can be summed up in three words: Don’t be stupid.