How to converse online

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When communication publicly it’s important to remember the human! You are communicating with other people.

Understanding and practicing some basic netiquette will help you leave a positive impression on others. And why is that important? People connect with those who leave a positive and relevant impression.

Remember when we communicate publicly on the Internet what you say is there for everyone to see.

Example: When you search for my name on Google much of what shows up are things that I wrote.

During a couple of Washington Redskins games during the 2010 season, I participated in a game day chat on somebody else’s site. When I searched for my name that following week that chat showed up on the front page of the Google results.

That’s a good example that much of what we say online is public, even when we perhaps don’t think of it as a public conversation.

And while many networks (Facebook, Twitter, for example) do allow us to restrict privacy settings, there are ways around them for people who really want to see a person’s profile.

For example:

  • On Twitter, users can block you from following their updates. But in some instances you can still see their wall.
  • On Facebook, on some settings, you can still see people’s wall even if you aren’t their friend.
  • Also on Facebook, at times you see people’s posts, pictures (even if they are locked down) if you’ve requested to be their friend. Or when one of your friend’s liked their post.

I break personal options down like this:

  • Be very familiar with privacy settings and keep up on changes.
  • Assume that everything you write online may become public.

Personally, I find it much easier to go with No. 2: Everything said is assumed public.

How can you participate in this online communication?

  • Stand for something: Who are you?
  • Treat people the way you’d like to be treated.
  • What can you say online that’s always OK to say?
  • How can you further the conversation?
  • Be human!
  • How do you want to come across when people Google you?

Some things to consider when you communicate online through only the written word:

  • Tone. Is the tone you are trying to get across coming across that way?
  • Relationships: You may be able to post something on a friend’s Facebook wall that everyone involved will read as a joke, but how about others who aren’t in that inner circle? Will it come across that way?

Also important: Your mindset when reading other’s posts/comments and how you react. Let’s say some people rub you the wrong way at times, but are they trying to? Are they unintentionally picking the wrong tone? Try not to read too much into neutral posts. For example: Think of all the ways phrases can be said out loud. Depending on how it’s said it could have a positive, negative or neutral meaning. Just a couple examples:

  • OK.
  • Not right now.
  • Hey.
  • What?

So, you have figured out what you stand for, you understand all this. So, now how do you do it? It takes practice. Sometimes you’ll say something that wasn’t received the way you’d like it to have been received. Follow-up is OK! Explain what you meant.

Really, what has helped me talk publicly is to:

  • Embrace the transparency.
  • Admit missteps and correct them.
  • See the value in connecting with others who are like me or have the same interests.
  • Understand or try to understand what shouldn’t be discussed publicly. (Confidential information or discussions with people who may not want their names attached to it.)

Communicating online and the public nature that comes with it has changed how we communicate. When done well this can help us have even more meaningful exchanges and can help build meaningful connections.