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How To Not Be Un-Nice Online

Fat Mum Slim /

I was 17 when I first discovered the internet. I was an avid reader of American magazines, and loved anything American {TV shows, radio stations, all the things}, so was thrilled that I could be closer connected to other parts of the world while sitting in the school library. I was such a newbie to the net, that when I tried to type in a URL in I actually typed in an email address. It was so new, exciting and very confusing.

I was the chubby kid at school {part due to my love of cake, part due to childhood trauma}, and I was one of the less popular kids in the popular girls group in our grade. I was friends with everyone, but not cool enough to reach popular status. It wasn’t something I particularly aspired too either. I was a head down, bum-up type of kid who wanted to do well, and please my teachers most of the time.

When I discovered the internet though, I realised that I could be anyone. It was this unreal world, where you showed up and nobody saw you. It meant they didn’t see my chubby self first, and they didn’t judge me. I was me, my personality first, and it was delightful. I found chat rooms and online spaces, and quickly coined myself Candy {oh man, I gag at the notion now, but it seemed cool back then}. I met people from all around the world. I was naive and innocent, and chat was all we did.

And here I am 20 years later, still loving the internet and the way it connects people, particularly me to other people I might not have otherwise met. I 87.3 % love the internet, and the rest it disappoints and angers me. Let me tell you why; there are assholes on the internet.

People think that the screen dividing them from the real world, but accessing them to the online world, is a reason to be braver or ruder than they might be in person. You’ve seen it, right? I see it everyday. I see it on Facebook now with people up in arms over Hot Cross Buns being in supermarkets already. People are very passionate, and some are very rude. It’s not just hot cross buns that people get upset about. It can be the clothes you wear, the things you do, the words you say, the way you look. People can be really quick to let you know what they think. I’ve been on the receiving end of it. My parenting, my work, my size, my choices, my family… people are happy to let me know when they don’t agree with what I do. It can be super nasty. Sometimes I cry {OK, I cry a lot} and sometimes I bite back {usually around that time of the month}.

Seventeen years ago we used to call life, IRL {in real life} because we separated the online world to the real world. They were really different places. We’d also say things like BRB {be right back} when we’d go to grab a sandwich and be away from the screen for a moment. The reality is we won’t BRB because we live here now. And the internet is IRL, because the world has moved in a totally new direction.

So, we should treat moments on the internet like we would in person. Would you yell profanities at the supermarket because they’re selling a bread roll with sultanas inside? Probably not. Would you tell someone to their face that they look fat and ugly upon seeing them in a new outfit? I’d hope not. Would you join in on a big brawl happening in the street because you could, and you felt like it? Hopefully not, that sounds dangerous.

Behave online as you would in person. Don’t be an asshole. Don’t add to the negativity online. Make the world a better place by being better, and typing nicer. Take a step back. Is it really a battle you want to be part of? Ask yourself, would I say this in person?

How do you not be un-nice online? It’s simple. You be the same person that you are in real life, cos this is our real life. We live here now.