The Internet Pledge.
Is it just me, or does it feel like the Internet has become a very cruel, vicious place?
Practically every day, it seems like there’s a new celebrity, artist, blogger, business owner, public figure (or non-public figure) who’s being flame-broiled, shamed, and humiliated by “people on the Internet.”
The name-calling, the attacks, the snarky blog comments that are intended to be “funny” (but really aren’t). It’s relentless.
It’s like we’ve got collective amnesia. We’ve forgotten that words matter, that words can devastate people’s businesses and lives, and that our actions — both online and offline — can have disastrous, painful consequences for other people.
I suspect we’re all guilty of this behavior — at least partially. Myself included.
I am not a blameless angel. In the past, I’ve salivated over Hollywood gossip websites — the ones that pick apart celebrities, their biggest mistakes, and their personal tragedies. I’ve published careless blog posts that I’ve since deleted. I’ve written unnecessarily brusque emails to Customer Service reps who are just trying to do their job. I know how easy it is to vent my annoyance into a blank Internet form and click “Send,” without even a moment’s thought about how my words might impact the recipient’s day.
I recognize that this behavior is not acceptable. It’s not the type of world I want to build. It’s not how I want to treat people — or be treated. I want to do better and be better. I’m guessing you feel the same way.
That’s why I wrote an Internet Pledge.
It’s a promise, a code of conduct, a list of common sense principles that I pledge to remember and uphold.
If this Internet Pledge resonates with you — if you’re reading along and nodding, “Yes, I agree” — then you can print it out, sign it, share it with friends, whatever you want to do.
Imagine if one million people took this pledge? One billion? Or more? It’s a fanciful idea but then again, stranger things have happened in this world.
The first pledge can come from you.
THE INTERNET PLEDGE
1. Both offline and online, I will treat people as if they’re my daughter, son, sister, brother, parent, or friend.
Because everybody is somebody’s daughter, son, sister, brother, parent, or friend.
2. To the best of my ability, I will try to add to the amount of love in the world — not subtract from it.
This means communicating in a reasonable, respectful manner. This means treating human beings like they’re human beings, not canned dog food. This means asking, “What would Michelle Obama say in this situation? What would Gandhi say? What would Martin Luther King Jr. say? What would Mister Rogers say?” and then proceeding accordingly.
3. I will not post snarky, cruel blog comments.
If I disagree with something that’s been written, I can write my own blog post to voice my perspective.
4. I will not post snarky, cruel messages criticizing people for their weight, body type, age, or anything related to their appearance — including the clothes they choose to wear.
Every human being has the right to express themselves however they want, whether that means wearing a bikini, a pantsuit, or a cocktail dress.
5. I will not post snarky, cruel reviews on Yelp, Amazon, or anywhere else.
If I’m not happy with a product that I’ve purchased, I can reach out to the manager or business owner to express my concerns. I can give that person an opportunity to make things right — which they will probably be more than happy to do.
6. I will not treat online forms (including Customer Support forms) as if they’re a free punching bag where I can unleash all of my pent-up frustration.
Eventually, whatever words I type into this form will reach an actual, living, breathing human being. Not a robot. A person. My words will impact this person’s day. So I will try to communicate in a reasonable, respectful manner.
7. I will not send numerous emails, one after another, saying, “Hey, did you get my last email?” (Or emails marked “URGENT” when really, they’re not.)
I understand that many people are inundated with hundreds of emails every week. Many people are dealing with intense difficulties at home — upheaval, divorce, illness, caring for aging parents, and a thousand other responsibilities. Sometimes, responding quickly just isn’t doable. I will be patient, just as I’d hope that others would be patient with me.
8. I will support the artists that I love.
If there’s a blog, podcast, public radio program, video series, book, or any other creative project that has deeply touched my life, I will support that artist to whatever extent I can. A fan letter. An appreciative review. A donation. A purchase. Whatever I can do to say, “You’ve made a difference for me. Thank you.”
9. I will not be careless with my words.
Words matter. Words can break hearts, start wars, or spark a bonfire of shame. Words can also help and heal. I will try to be a helper, not a hurter.
10. I HEREBY PLEDGE…
I will do my part to create a safer, kinder, more compassionate Internet — and offline world, too. It begins with the next email I write, the next comment I post, the next choice I make. I will never be a perfect human being, but every day, I will try to be better.
My new book, You’re Going to Survive, is a collection of true stories about criticism, rejection, public humiliation, online bullying, all kinds of difficult situations, and how to get through them. I hope you love reading it, and I hope it boosts you up whenever you’re having a tough moment.