Would Your Mother Approve of That Comment You Just Posted Online?

November 17, 2011 | By | Comments (8)

Whenever I get homesick for Northern California, I visit virtually by reading the local newspaper online.

I love how so many of the small-town stories that dominate the news make that part of the country sound like a place Garrison Keillor might feel at home. In today’s paper, for instance, I enjoyed the usual reports of high school sports scores, along with an update on efforts to save “the Old Dixie Schoolhouse” (built nearly 150 years ago with the help of a pioneer who came to California in a covered wagon).

But I don’t enjoy the nasty comments that readers routinely post on the site.  “Old people shouldn’t be allowed to drive,” one reader wrote at the bottom of a news story about a 78-year-old driver who (accidentally!) drove her car into the wall of a Sears department store at a local mall. Another chimed in, “Old people, they are like drunk driver [sic]…”

Why blurt hurtful comments? It serves no greater good. So, stop already.

It never ceases to flabbergast me that people who wouldn’t insult you to your face will say the meanest things online.  And for some reason this behavior, considered totally unacceptable in the physical world, is condoned (instead of being deleted by moderators) online.

Modern manners, indeed. How to behave politely online is something we’re all trying to learn together, in real time, every day. As we spend more time on the Internet, and as technology continues to change at a rapid pace, we constantly face new etiquette questions: How quickly should you answer an email? Do you feel like a stalker if you “lurk” on your high school boyfriend’s Facebook profile page? Have you ever spitefully added negative biographical details to someone’s Wikipedia page?

And commenters, is there a polite way to let people know your opinions?

Here at Real Simple, we’d like to hear what you have to say about online etiquette.  What questions have you faced on the Internet? And if you figured out how to answer them, we’d love to know that too.

(image via Marinij.com)