Online Etiquette: Think Before You Click You’re nice to people because you know it’s important to treat them like you’d like to be treated. You’ve been taught to be a friendly, courteous person — but what about online? Just like how you’d never tell a guy in class your bra size, you need to take your online self just as seriously. Whether you are sending messages on social networks, through email or through text messages, the person you are online is important. Don’t pretend to be someone you’re not — you might regret it later! Here are tips for staying responsible online — and to not fall into the temptation of becoming someone you’re not. Would You Say It Out Loud? If you’re in a fight with a friend and noticed she said something about you on a social media site, it can be easy to get carried away in the moment. You could start posting or texting messages that you’d never dream of saying out loud. Perhaps someone asked you a personal question that made you uncomfortable and you answered just to keep the conversation going. Before you know it, you’ve just revealed personal information only you and your parents should know. But here’s the real deal: Posting messages on social media sites is just like saying something out loud in a crowd. All your friends will see it! And texts, emails and private online messages can always fall into the wrong hands — like that cute guy’s buddies at his next basketball practice. When words start to fly back and forth, you can become someone you’re not, feelings can be hurt, your privacy can be at risk, rumors can be spread and reputations can be ruined. It can happen as quickly as you can hit “enter.” The worst part? There’s no going back. Once it is posted or sent, there’s cold, hard evidence that can’t be deleted. It is right there for everyone to see. What to Do? Thinking of typing something you’d never say out loud? Stop! Take a deep breath. Think of these guidelines before you type or text away: Wait for five. Before sending a message, take your finger off the send button and do something else for five minutes. There's a good chance you'll cool down and be glad you waited. Ask yourself some questions: Sometimes doing a quick self-check can help guide your decision for your response. Try these questions: Would I be embarrassed if all my friends read or saw this? Would I be ashamed if my mom read or saw this? That may be what happens if what you type gets in the wrong hands! Something fun and flirty or mean and nasty sent on a whim will be accessible to college recruiters, teachers, coaches, parents, friends, enemies and strangers — even after you delete it! Protect your privacy. Nothing is totally private. There are thousands of sad stories to prove that messages and images get passed around, even when you think they won't. Thirty-nine percent of teens say they have had a sexually suggestive message (originally meant to be private) shown to them. Every message leaves a trail and never truly goes away. Say nothing at all (Silence is golden). Did someone post something rude about you? Is someone trying to get you to answer really personal questions? Sometimes the best answer is nothing at all. Silence is a statement in itself! It says you are the bigger person and you don’t have the time or energy to stoop to that level or it shows you respect yourself and private information should remain private. Say something nice. People like people who are positive. Say nice things and when you need to say “no,” do it nicely. You’re sure to have more texts and posts flooding in! Make it clear. Your intention isn’t always obvious. Remember: it can be hard for your friends to get the right intention of your words. You could mean to send a compliment, but they may not interpret it that way in a text, post or online message. Always make it clear that your words are kind. Miscommunications can wreak a lot of havoc on a friendship or your whole reputation. Positive Posting Have you been guilty of posting and writing messages without really thinking about what it’s saying about you? It’s never too late to clean up your online act. Start now. Follow our guidelines and you’ll be back on the road to positive posting that everyone will notice and appreciate! Learn about online etiquette and get helpful tips and advice at BeingGirl.com.