Good Manners in a Virtual World

Hey! I know y’all were expecting Andi to pop in with something awesome. She, however, has some other stuff going on and I volunteered to fill the gap. And then I forgot to post something earlier. For all you long-time readers, are y’all sensing a theme with me and deadlines? Yeah, it’s kind of a lost cause.

But, here I am now! Woo!

As some of you surely know already, I like to laugh. More than that, I like to make other people laugh. I like the subtle joke, you know the one that can slide right past if you’re not paying attention? And sometimes (okay, a lot of times), my humor can be a little (okay, maybe a lot) sharp, a little biting, a little sarcastic. One thing I try to never be, however, is mean.

Recently, I’ve had reason to question how much of my humor truly translates for other people and how much just comes off as super-bitch. And, if I do come across as super-bitch, does that mean that’s my super power and I should be wearing a cape? More importantly, how do I make sure people know how my sense of humor works? And does it matter if I explain it? Because, really, if you have to explain something, the joke clearly didn’t work.

This is very much a #firstworldproblem, clearly. But I live in a virtual world. I maintain long distant relationships, both personal and professional, via the internet. My income depends on the fabulous speed and effectiveness of the world wide web. God forbid my internet service go down for a day or two. Want to see a person in full-on, curled-up-in-the-corner meltdown? Visit my house next time my internet goes kaplooey. It ain’t pretty folks.

So, for someone as dependent upon effective online communication as I am, there are some keys, for me at least, to making sure that what I say is received the way I intend. Here are some of the things I try to do:

  1. Keep it professional. If you don’t know the other person’s sense of humor, do not try to be funny. Too much gets lost in the online translation. Especially in a global market. If you’re doing business with folks all over the world, cultural bias/norms will play a huge factor in your communications.
  2. When in doubt, ask someone else to proof read. Yes, I do this a LOT. Not because I’m worried about grammar or punctuation or any of the other scary things about writing. I just want to make sure I didn’t put on my super-bitch cape without knowing it. Most of the time, I do okay. Sometimes, however, I get called on things I say. Tone, it seems, doesn’t really translate all that well without the benefit of voice and facial expressions.
  3. Be prepared to apologize quickly and repeatedly when necessary. The reality is, when communicating with someone via online written formats, it doesn’t matter what your intentions were. What matters is how the other person received it. If you hurt someone’s feelings, intentional or not, you have to make that right.
  4. Say please and thank you. Yeah, that’s basic kindergarten right there, but something my wife constantly reminds me about nonetheless.

What about the rest of you? How important are social niceties in your online communications? Do you care? A little? A lot? Not at all? What ae some of the things you keep in mind when putting a piece of yourself out on the internet for someone else to read?


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