The internet can be a wonderful tool for Christian stewards to give witness to their faith, and knowing proper internet etiquette (“netiquette”) is important for exercising good Christian stewardship. Listed below are just a few netiquette principles to keep in mind when communicating over the internet.
BE KIND TO PEOPLE. Send messages that reveal a care and concern for others. Avoid posting comments that reveal impatience or lack restraint. Don’t use expressions that are vulgar, intemperate or aggressive in tone.
BE TRUTHFUL. When sending e-mails or using social networks, be sure what you are relating is accurate and do not leave false impressions. Avoid creating or promoting false online profiles or images of yourself.
BE HELPFUL TO OTHERS. Believe it or not, newcomers to online usage appear every day. If you encounter new internet users, help them. Be patient and help newcomers understand appropriate internet use and “netiquette”.
ACT WITH COMPASSION AND EMPATHY. It is hard to share feelings on the internet. In person, people can see the genuine concern and love on our faces when sensitive issues arise. On the internet, messages can more easily be misinterpreted or we can respond in a way that appears curt or lacking in sympathy. Practice compassion online.
AVOID GOSSIP. Posting any form of gossip designed to slander, show disrespect or put down others behind their back (back-stabbing) should be avoided. We should also not share personal information about anyone without that person’s permission.
AVOID CHARACTER ASSASINATIONS. Addressing others using derogatory terms such as “liars” or “morons” is certainly inappropriate for public forums, especially for a disciple of Jesus Christ.
AVOID “FLAMING” OR MATCHING “FLAME” FOR “FLAME”. Flaming is an internet term meaning an exchange of inflammatory remarks with another in anger. Pause before reacting to someone’s post in anger, and pray before you decide on the appropriate response, or whether it might even be better not to respond in certain circumstances, rather than reacting in anger and posting words in an inflammatory manner. St. Paul wrote that if we bite and devour one another, we’ll only be consumed by one another. (Gal 5:15).
DON’T SEND MESSAGES USING ALL CAPITAL LETTERS. Using ALL CAPS is generally perceived as “shouting” at others. It is considered as rude as it is inflammatory and should be avoided.
BE FORGIVING OF OTHER PEOPLES’ MISTAKES. Mistakes, especially unintentional, do happen. Avoid scoffing or making fun of others’ mistakes in grammar. Where a message may be confusing or could be construed in a negative way, give the sender the benefit of the doubt. Ask for clarification where necessary.
LOOK FOR OPPORTUNITIES TO ENCOURAGE OTHERS. Think of two or three people to whom you can send a brief word of encouragement. Sometimes it is just, “Hi, I was just thinking about you and prayed that God bless you in a special way today.”
We can enjoy our internet communications and serve Jesus Christ at the same time. A principle of Christian stewardship is fundamental to internet communications: Do unto others as you would want them to do unto you.