Keep It Cool By Building Online Civility

Author Sue Scheff shares insights in preventing online hostility and bullying from reaching a boiling point.

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There’s no denying that we are experiencing a time when there is a crack in civility online. According to a new survey, eighty-four percent of Americans have experienced incivility first-hand and sixty-nine percent believe that social media and the Internet are to blame.

Seventy-five percent of American’s believe that the change begins with us.

How can we help de-escalate incivility?

First, we need to understand the “why”: Much of our online behavior is a reflection of our offline character.

Make no mistake about it, the first impression most people will have of us is our digital one. From college recruiters reviewing social media feeds to employers examining digital reputations, your virtual behavior can determine your future.

Most importantly, empathy for others-not only offline–but especially online, is exactly how we can combat incivility and cruelty.

Patience is a virtue.

As cliché as it sounds, this phrase is one that we can all stand to remember and refer to these days, especially when it comes to sending a hasty text message or sensitive email. Wait 24-hours.

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Waiting to send will give you time to consider the “3 C’s of Social Media” (aka, “How To Keep It Cool Online”):

  • Conduct: Control yourself. Remember, there’s a person on other side of the screen.
  • Content: Limit your sharing. Will what you are about to share embarrass or humiliate someone?
  • Caring: Are you posting with empathy?

Help, I can’t believe they posted that!

Most of us have had the experience of reading a post that elicits our darker angels and makes us want to respond to with anger. Who hasn’t had a bad day that makes us want to lash out with our keypad? This is exactly when we need to keep it cool. Consider the 3 C’s above, and implement the art of not commenting or simply clicking out.

Learn to use your words with wisdom, be constructive, not combative. Commenting is a privilege. It’s an opportunity for you to showcase respect. If you don’t think you can do this– there is nothing wrong with a little digital detox or simply moving on from the post.

As I often tell others, when in doubt — it’s time to click out.

Quality over quantity: When “like’s,” forwards and comments perpetrate hate.

Have you ever considered that when you “like,” forward or even comment on a video, image, message or any social media post — it is the same as endorsing it? We watch people carelessly “liking” photos, messages and other things online without really thinking what they are about. Some are forwarding mean memes or questionable content without realizing the consequences. They are staking their reputation on their online actions.

Hate perpetrates hate.

When you keep it cool, you get the opportunity to pause, read that post, listen to that video, and think — is this really something I want to put my stamp of approval on? Remember, your name will be forever associated whatever it is.

Kids today are especially quick to seek validation through the number of “likes” they get without realizing that these are not quality endorsements. The same people who “like” you today might turn on you in a “snap” or with one post gone ugly.

As summer heats up, it’s important that we all remember, no matter what our age, when it comes to digital devices, it’s important to keep our cool. You will be surprised at how this can drastically reduce your chances of becoming a perpetrator or victim of digital disaster.

Learn more tips and see more resources for how you can #KeepItCool this summer.


tcf-post2174-expert-sue-scheffFounder and President of Parents’ Universal Resource Experts Inc. (P.U.R.E.™), Sue Scheff has been leveraging her personal experiences to help others through her organization since 2001. She is a Family Internet Safety Advocate determined to save other parents from encountering the same challenges and issues she faced when searching for a safe, effective program for her own daughter during her troubled teen years. Sue Scheff established P.U.R.E.™ as an advocacy organization to educate parents about the schooling and program options available to pre-teens and teenagers experiencing behavioral problems. She is the author of the book Shame Nation. You can find her blog here. She is also available on Twitter or Facebook.


The views or experiences expressed are solely those of the contributor or interview subject and do not represent the views of the Tyler Clementi Foundation, its staff or board. If you have any questions or concerns regarding the material, please contact the Tyler Clementi Foundation, and we appreciate your support and commitment to end bullying starting on #Day1.

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