The biggest risk online

Your mind doesn’t really understand it means to be online.

For example, I’m sitting in front of a computer screen, typing something that I will post on my blog.  Am I really conceptualizing the experience of each and every real, living, thinking, influencing person out there reading this post?  Am I also keeping in mind the network of people they’re part of with whom they might share this post if it strikes them? Or recalling that the words that I’m writing will be in the pubic domain, findable and searchable, forever?

Kind of makes you stop and think for a second, doesn’t it?

I’m probably not going to be able to process all of this — it’s just too much to ask of me and my simple caveman brain.  And I think it’s too much to ask of most people, which is why typing an email or writing a Facebook status update is the online version of road rage: we forget ourselves and morph into semi-anonymous bots who act in ways we never would in the real world (unless you know lots of people who shout out, “I’m taking another nap at work!” in a permanent, globally searchable database that will live on forever).

Since you’re bound to forget this too, why not cling voraciously to common sense and good manners?

Why not ask yourself if the tweet/status update/text/IM/blog post/email you’re about to write would hold up if you had to stand and read it to a close friend or a relative or your third grade teacher or a loved one or your boss?

It’s deceptive to type away and think/hope/fear that no one is listening.  Would you act differently if you were standing in front of a room filled with everyone who might hear you and all of their friends?

I sure hope not.

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