If it doesn’t feel right in real life, don’t do it online

It’s the 1700s. A messenger, visibly exhausted from the long journey, barges into your house. “BREAKING NEWS!”, he says. “40 people in a country you have no relations to have died in an explosion.”

You put down your morning bread, pause for a moment, before frowning: “Wait, why are you telling me this?”

There are things we’d never accept in the real world yet deem completely natural online. Tech lowers the threshold so we don’t stop to think how crazy this is.

  • You wouldn’t spy on people having sex, so why watch it on a screen? 
  • You wouldn’t ask that person you went to high school with what they ate for dinner yesterday, so why follow them on social? If I wouldn’t send you a letter or set up time to catch up, why do I have a 50 day Snapchat streak with you? (Mostly exchanging pics of our foreheads)
  • You wouldn’t argue with some stranger on the street, yet happy to spend a day’s mental energy to prove them wrong online. (= online disinhibition effect)
  • If a friend only shared pessimistic thoughts with you, you’d stop being their friend. But when a subreddit or Twitter profile does it, we get addicted to it.

There are instances where the low threshold provided by tech is great – I don’t need to travel to a library to figure out how to change a tire or bake a blueberry pie! In many cases, though, the threshold lures us into behavior we’d be better off without. 

Remove the tech layer to see clearly. If it doesn’t feel right in real life, don’t do it online.

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