A slightly modified Golden Rule: How to treat others on social networks

A slightly modified Golden Rule: How to treat others on social networks

There’s a lot of talk about being able to manage our privacy and boundaries on various online social networks, but one thing that’s in part missing from the conversation is reminders to ourselves and others that there should be guidelines on how you treat other people. I feel like there’s this notion out there that we are each an island at the mercy of whatever mercurial whims our friends, colleagues, and family throw our way. But what if we started thinking about “do unto others” –not just as we would have done to ourselves, either–as we also cavort about online?

In that spirit, here’s some simple advice about how to treat others with respect and still have fun online. The number one rule? Ask first.

Mind-blowing concept, I know! But with the ease with which we can refer to and tag each other on different services, we forget that sometimes people don’t want to be referred to or tagged. Just because someone has a public profile, doesn’t mean they want to be quoted at every juncture! Here are some standard questions I use:

  • Can I post what you just said to Twitter and Facebook? Should I credit you, or should it be anonymous/overheard?
  • I took a great picture of us–check it out. Can I post it and tag you with it?
  • I’m checking into Foursquare for this restaurant. Can I say that I’m having dinner with you?

Not only does this tell your friend that you actually care about their privacy (most people like that), but it also helps spread the reminder that they should do the same for you and others.

The more you do it, the more comfortable it’ll be for both you and your friends. Now, onward with your sharing!