This week: Why Our Online Behaviour MattersEdited by: Kittiara
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Online communication is fun. It can be helpful. It's great for people who are not that confident in face-to-face interactions. Unfortunately, one must be cautious...
This week's Spiritual Newsletter is all about the importance of online kindness.
Online communication can be great! Before I got the Internet, I had pen pals in various countries. I loved learning about different nations and cultures. When I realised, then, that I could exchange instant messages with people from around the world, and participate in activities with them, such as gaming, my love for the Internet was born.
I’m quite a shy person. I’m not always the best at face-to-face communication. One of the excellent things about communicating online is that you can take your time with your message, post or email. You can edit it before sending – something that’s impossible when speaking with someone in person. Also, I don’t have to worry about how I look and whether or not I’m being judged about a million-and-one other things – all that I am sending out there are my words and the personality that, hopefully, shines through those words. I feel at ease with this form of self-expression.
There is a downside, though. Because all that is sent out into the world are just words, the person reading them cannot hear your intended tone of voice, nor see your facial expression or body language. A message can be misinterpreted. Sometimes, this is because of the way your message is written. Other times it can be because of the mood of the recipient, or their own concerns about how they are coming across.
These days, of course, there are many ways in which to communicate online, including voice and video chat. That can help overcome these obstacles. However, the written word is still a major form of online communication. I am not complaining, because I am obviously not very likely to place myself in front of a camera.
And that’s something else that the Internet offers – there’s a certain level of anonymity. This, too, can be a positive aspect of the online world. Behind a username you can express yourself more freely. I have written items about bad events from my past that I wouldn’t have written and put out there had I not had the ability to remain anonymous. Not because of any mischief on my part, but because those items are a way of dealing with the pain, and I wouldn’t want the people involved to stumble upon them. In some cases, it would just cause another fall-out. In others, I wouldn’t want them to know that they ever had the power to hurt me. I cherish the freedom, then, to write whatever I feel like, or feel that I need to.
But anonymity can bring its own problems. There are people who will use it to lie, to scam, or to generally be horrible to others. During my years on the Internet I have met a disappointingly large number of these kinds of people. Most of us will not abuse our anonymity. We’ll still be us. Sadly, not everyone is like that, and whilst it can be difficult, especially when you have a trusting nature, it is good to be cautious. I have learned that the hard way.
Fortunately, Writing.Com is a pretty safe website. It is the safest I have come across in my travels online. Partly that’s because kindness is actively encouraged on this site. It also helps that if there is an (incredibly rare) instance of bullying, it is dealt with in a no-nonsense manner. In my 15 years of being here, I can only remember one person attempting to troll, and that was nipped in the bud instantly!
That doesn’t mean that it isn’t good to reflect on our online interactions. A lack of kindness towards others can really crush someone’s spirit. Behind the usernames and handles are real people, with real feelings and emotions. We all have our bad days, and times when we feel less patient, and during those times we may not be as friendly as we normally would be. But we don’t know what the person on the other end is going through. They may be going through a bad time as well. In our every communication, then, we have the ability to lift people up or drag them down. Sometimes, when we are unable to lift someone up, it’s better to wait a while before creating a post or firing off an email that may not be as pleasant as it could be.
Above all, as always, have fun. That’s what being a part of a writing community is all about.
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