In fourth grade, the all-encompassing rule in the classroom was “be courteous.” Unfortunately, the anonymity of the Internet makes it easy for just about everyone to throw “be courteous” right out the window, which can lead to a highly negative, uninhabitable space. So here are a few reminders to help you maintain some courtesy and perpetuate a more positive Internet experience.

Wait before you post.

You just spent several minutes furiously typing up that comment or blog post dripping with anger and fire and a bit of snark, but don’t click “reply” just yet. Walk away from the situation. Let yourself cool off.

Once you’ve regained your composure, come back to what you wrote and read it over. It probably sounds, well, terrible. Not only are there a ton of grammatical and spelling mistakes, but the post doesn’t sound a thing like you. Worse, what you originally wanted to say got lost in the anger and frustration.

Positive doesn’t mean passive. You can still write a passionate response. Just approach it from a different angle, something beyond pure rage. Be clear in what you’re trying to say, even if you don’t agree with the original post. Not only will the original poster be more likely to respond to your comment, but you won’t look like a petty, negative attention-seeker.

In some cases, it may be worth it to say nothing at all. No need to waste your breath or your time. Move on to something that matters.

Avoid the cynicism.

Amidst teenagers bullying an elderly bus monitor and the online bullying and harassment of a young woman wanting to discuss female characters in video games, the Web—and life in general—can be a particularly cynical, negative place, home to trolls, griefers, and generally unsavory characters. No one wants to see more of the same. It gets tiring and can wear down on the average user pretty quickly.

I know, we’re all allowed our brief moments in the doldrums. However, when every other tweet, status update, and piece of content you post is seen through a prism of “this world sucks,” you lose a lot of your original intent. You’ll probably lose a fair few followers as well.

Cut back on posts that contain anything that can be construed as cynical and stop using any form of “I hate…”

Be constructive.

A step up from the last rule, turn that negative situation into something constructive. Write a frank, intelligent blog post discussing it without implicating negative feelings. Ask others if they have experienced anything similar. Start a discussion that goes beyond, “Things are terrible. Let’s wallow in it.” Staying cynical doesn’t help you or anyone else.

Jay Smooth over at Ill Doctrine does an excellent job of this, tackling a variety of topics about race, the Internet, and society at large, while opening up dialogue and keeping viewers thinking.

Be supportive.

From average Joe Entrepreneur trying to get his first start-up off the ground to Gary Vaynerchuk, we all started somewhere. As a big, established brand you might be tempted to undermine your competition, but take a step back and remember that you were once just another little guy. Even if you’re a “mid-level” business, support your fellow brands and businesses, whether it’s giving them a quick shout-out or providing a guest blog post. You’ll build your network, and more often than not, those people will return the favor.

Don’t feed the trolls.

When you happen upon someone saying or doing things just to get a rise out of you, your best bet is to ignore them. Responding only makes things worse. How does this all help you? The online world is growing increasingly social. Everything is interconnected: whether you’re an individual or a large company, your reputation carries over throughout all websites, throughout all platforms. Conducting yourself positively allows you to create deeper relationships with your followers while creating a much broader appeal. Keep your chin up, connect with others, and stay positive.


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