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why what you say in a private message may show more of who you are…

I have a good friend that teaches at a US University. He teaches a course called “online ethics.”  Every time he starts a new class he gives a quiz in the first minute of the class to the students. That usually causes a lot of consternation and concern from the students. In the eight years he has taught the class he has had more than 3000 students take the class. Only 140 have passed the first quiz. When he passes them back out on the second day, he tells the students that the quiz won’t count against them. He just wanted to establish a baseline. He wanted to understand where the students were about the concept of online ethics.

His first lesson is who you are.

It is one that I strive towards, and I know I fail. I struggle with the application of fairness in the online world often. I let that influence my responses.

In part I am limited, due to restrictions I cannot talk about, I can’t say some things online.

His second lesson is what you send privately is an indicator of the real you.

That one scares me. He has done studies for the past ten years, in that time my friend has found that people often comment publically one way, but privately they are very different in what they send and say.  He talks about different styles that people understand when sharing online. The reason for our conversation is that he reads my blog (not Virily) and has noticed a couple of things.

First, he said my idea to switch to funny stories was a good one. I had to tell him it wasn’t my idea. He said to share with the person (Ghostwriter) that focusing on happy things is a really good way to move forward.

The second thing he said was that I should be more transparent.

I asked him what he meant by that. He and I have talked many times about some of the messages I’ve gotten here on Virly and MyLot and back in the day on Niume. He talked about the fact that I try to help people regardless of the impact on me. That I let people send me messages that are offensive and mean, and I don’t do anything about them, and that isn’t healthy. He reminded me of the reality of online ethics. It is my responsibility to be the best me whenever.

I showed him some of the Virily posts (we were in an online meeting). He enjoyed the site and the posts of the authors I often read.

Then I showed him some of the private messages I have gotten. He was shocked. First at how many people reach out for help. But also the messages send by some authors that were not nice.

He said you should share those.

I am not, but I’ve decided going forward that I will share messages sent privately and on other platforms by authors if the message does not meet the standard of asking for help, or arguing nicely about a post I’ve made. If they make nasty or personal attacks against me I am going to share those messages.

My friend is getting ready to publish his initial findings. One of the things I learned during our conversation was saying I am Sorry still matters.

  • Have you ever posted a comment you regretted?

    • Yes
    • No
  • Do you keep emails sent that hurt your feelings?

    • Yes
    • No
  • Did you know Virily had a private message function?

    • Yes
    • No
  • Say what you mean, but mean what you say right?

    • Yes
    • No

What do you think?

16 points

Written by DocAndersen

I am a long time blogger and technology poster.I focus on what is possible, but I also try to see what is coming. In recent years I have been focused on sharing the memories of my family, as part of my Family History Project.


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  1. That’s interesting. I don’t know if private message shows more true colors of oneself. I always trust my instinct whether a person is really who he/she is when I meet him/her online, though sometimes it could be wrong. 😛

  2. Q: Have you ever posted a comment you regretted?
    Yes (4 votes) – 36%
    No (7 votes) – 64%
    Q: Do you keep emails sent that hurt your feelings?
    Yes (3 votes) – 33%
    No (6 votes) – 67%
    Q: Did you know Virily had a private message function?
    Yes (9 votes) – 75%
    No (3 votes) – 25%
    Q: Say what you mean, but mean what you say right?
    Yes (9 votes) – 100%

  3. I`m not sure I have gossiped about others very much. Sure I have a few close friends that I chat about stuff and what someone did, but not to be just talking but more about beiing hurt by their behavior.

    I try to be fake all the time but people keep seeing me!!!!!!

    Pinned it in Doc`s Place.

  4. Well, I often pray that the right words come out of my mouth . Honestly in my experience I can honestly say that some add up 2 + 2 and get 146, a lot of trouble comes out of misunderstanding

    Plus here I am aware there are cultural issues. I don’t know a lot about other people’s cultures and have a lot to learn..

  5. Thank God I only say what I have to say. If I don’t like something I pass it up. I hate indulging in negative comments or being rude. If someone chooses to do so to me I disregard their comments as it doesn’t mean a thing to me.

  6. One thing I have learned in life is to be respectful even if I disagree with somebody.
    We can avoid being hurt or taken advantage of. It’s in our grip. There are things we can’t avoid but how we react towards them matters a lot.

  7. One problem with the online world is that is such an easy environment in which to build yourself an alternative personality – in other words not being yourself.

    I can see circumstances where that is not necessarily a bad thing. Suppose, for example, that you have had a bad relationship and you think you can see where you made mistakes. In the online world you can turn back the clock, make different choices, and see if the reactions you get would have been better than the ones you got in the real world.

    You can also make claims about your past that are not true, but enjoy the adulation you would love to have had in the real world, in the full knowledge that nobody will ever know the truth. If you can find happiness in fantasy that is not there in reality, is that always wrong?

    I write stories. In these, reality is twisted in order to fashion a plot and produce an effect in the reader. It is very tempting to posit the fantasy as reality and use the reaction as part of the story.

    However, the dangers are also obvious, and much harm has been done by dangerous people who deceive others by hiding behind a mask.

    In the online world, it is sometimes impossible to know what is true and what is fake. That is why I – with 40 years as a librarian! – always trust what I see in print more than what I read on the Web!

    • You do as always raise a very interesting counterpoint.

      To the being an alternative person to ourselves online, that would of course show why people do what they do. It still doesn’t excuse it. But it does allow an explanation to a point.

      Hiding behind a mask is dangerous. I always trust but verify, writer, online or told to me.

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