Monday, June 15, 2009

Internet Etiquette and Cautiousness

While it is important to share our stories on forums like this we all need to be aware that these are public forums. It is easy for anyone to join them, even with moderator approval. I'm a moderator and group owner of a couple of groups and rely on the honesty of those applying to join to determine if they are suitable. I can't know if the intentions of the person joining the group are in the group's interests until the person starts posting... and if they never post, I'll never know.

We need to be remain aware that when we post on forums our messages can be read by people we don't know. They can tell others who aren't members of the yahoo group what we have written - or their interpretation of what we have written. I think it is important to remember that what is written on the group remains online or on a hard drive somewhere 'forever', even if individual posts or the whole group is deleted. That's the nature of computers and computing.

I've been on a group where someone wrote something about another person (not a group member) that was considered defamatory by that person. Court action was threatened. I don't know the outcome and I wasn't involved, but copies of the offending post were sent to me, which is how I know about it. It made me aware that when I write about other people in my emails I need to be extra vigilant that I don't say anything that I will later regret. It also made me aware that even when I am writing private emails to individuals I need to be careful not to let emotion take over, which is when I usually start to say stuff that may end up hurting someone else. With email, nothing is truly private. That is the nature of the internet.

Reporting the truth as we see it is always important and I hate the whole idea of censorship. I want to be upfront and honest about what I think and feel. I don't want to inadvertently upset someone, or say something that will be interpreted differently to what I meant. Most of the time I am very careful to remember to re-read what I have written before I hit the send button. Sometimes I won't post it until the next day. I seem to delete half of what I write nowadays, thinking 'better safe than sorry'. (That's hard to believe, isn't it!)

When we write about our experiences using email or on the internet we need to be guarded.

I never used to think like this. I've written hundreds of articles about my homeschooling life, never thinking about the impact my honesty and openness would have on my children's lives. Happily for me it isn't an issue for them, but I am lucky - my ignorance in the past could have been the cause of constant source of pain and hurt in my family for years to come. When I write about other people I need to be even more cautious - there is not the carefully crafted and nurtured bond of love and respect I have with my own family to protect me. Other people are not as forgiving of me as my family!

When we write on the internet we need to remember these things. I've seen lots of people protect their children's privacy by using DS (dear son) or DD (dear daughter) or simply using the child's initial. It's too late for me but I'd recommend that tactic for others to adopt. Plus I tend to generalise statements now - talk about the topic, rather than the person, when having a whinge session or needing to get something off my chest. I'm much more interested in issues and solutions and have learned the hard way too often to focus on the personal stuff involved. If I mention names I try to keep it factual and cut out any emotional comments. Internet communication can be tricky. I wouldn't want to go back to the past when I felt incredibly isolated - I love the internet and I'm an email addict. But it is important to be aware and be a little bit guarded in how we use it.

© Beverley Paine

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