Along with all of the many wonderful benefits the internet affords us, there are also a number of troublesome concerns. Many of these are well-known – they might even be headline news any day of the week – but many more are so subtle that most internet users don’t know anything about them, and some users are only aware of the tip of the iceberg. The question is: what kind of an internet user are you? Are you responsible with regard to your own safety and privacy, and the safety and privacy of others? Or is there much more that you could do with regard to looking after yourself and those around you? Most people fit into this second camp; let’s take a look at how you can become a more responsible and sensible internet user today.
Arguably the most important thing to bear in mind as an internet user is the value of your privacy. If you are not taking care of your privacy, it will only mean that you struggle to use the internet in quite the sensible way you should. At the very worst, not paying attention to your privacy issues online will mean that your data could get into the wrong hands, and even end up being sold to those who will use it for nefarious purposes. Even if it doesn’t get that bad, you will need to make sure that you are being careful here, so as to avoid any everyday privacy concerns, such as big tech companies targeting you without you knowing. The question is: how do you use the internet in such a way that your privacy is being treated as paramount?
You can learn more about privacy here, but generally, the main thing is that you are thinking clearly whenever you use the internet. As long as you are doing that, you should find that you will be able to keep your data much more secure – and that will lead to a real increase in how safe you feel online. When it comes to being responsible online, this is the first and last thing to consider. Everything else will stem from this.
Remember The Human
One of the most central tenets of good netiquette is to remember the human. It is unfortunately all too easy to forget that real people are behind the other side of the screen, and when we forget that it only leads to division and unkindness. If we make a point of remembering the human, however, it encourages us to be better internet users and to treat the people we speak to online much more compassionately and fairly. This is essentially an argument against trolling, at its extreme, but it applies even to having disputes with your relatives over Facebook.
The flip side of this adage is remembering that, online, you are never receiving all of the information you might need to keep your understanding of what the other person is really saying. You can’t hear the tone of voice or see their facial expressions, or gestures. At its simplest, this results in a lack of ability to interpret sarcasm, but in a more extreme form, it can result in a complete breakdown of civil discussion altogether. All we need to do is remember that there is plenty of information we are not receiving online, and react accordingly. This will almost always mean calming our responses, rather than elevating them.
Above all, remember to ask yourself this question before you say something to someone online: would you say it to their face? If the answer is ‘no’, then you probably shouldn’t be saying it online, either.
The Role Of Karma
You don’t have to actually believe in a real karmic universal force in order to appreciate this point. It’s not so much about fearing comeuppance as it is a matter of appreciating that you only ever get out of your interactions what you put into them. On the internet, too, you are always going to find that the kind of quality you put into it will largely dictate what you get out of them. This is an important thing to remember if you are trying to improve your experience online: as long as you are putting more into it, you will absolutely get more out.
That applies to everything you do online. If you are hoping to get more twitter followers, guess what: you need to start following some more people. But this is also true in more important uses of the internet – not to say that social media can’t be used for important things, of course. If you are using the internet for research, understanding what good searching looks like will mean that you get many more results that are useful to you in return. As you can see, karma seems to play a pretty substantial role online.
Finding Trusted Sources & Being Careful With Information
The democratization of information is undoubtedly a good thing, as is the democratization of anything. But it’s not all good – part of what happens inevitably with that process is that you end up being faced with so many sources that you don’t know where to begin, nor which are likely to be trustworthy. At some point, a good internet user has to learn how to find trustworthy information and has to learn how to generally be careful with the information that they do come across. This is a much more challenging thing to do than you might realize.
Mostly, this is just a matter of spending time learning which resources to trust and which to take with a pinch of salt – as well as which you should probably ignore altogether. You might learn something useful from Wikipedia, but you will almost certainly want to double-check it with a more reliable source, depending on the kind of information it is.
If you can take these things on board, you will find that you are a much more sensible and responsible internet user in no time. That will bring about many advantages for you.