I've been online as abitosunshine for nearly ten years now. I've met some wonderful people here, some have become sisters and brothers of my spirit and I cherish them as a major part of my life.
Throughout my years online, I've made a lot of mistakes, just as I have offline. I have learned my lessons well, though I am sure there are many things yet to be learned. I've decided to some of my learned lessons with you, in the form of a few of my major pet peeves, in hopes that you may avoid the mistakes that I have made here in this wonderful land of the internet.
Real Life vs. Fake Life
Have you said the words, "Real life kept me from being online?"
Really now, if that's the case, then I must ask you - exactly who are you, who is the real you, have you been pretending to be someone you are not?
This is real life, the online portion of your life - the part of your life that includes internet groups, social networks, friends, and sometimes, family-by-choice. If you're offline life keeps you from being with your online friends and groups, we understand - that's life!
However, if what's going on in your offline life is important to you, how about sharing it with those you know online too?
I am willing to bet that you will find someone is waiting just for you, to have you share yourself with them, so they can share a bit of themselves with you. You may find you have a lot in common - the good, the bad, and the ugly - online and offline.
Email forwards, albeit interesting ones, travel cyberspace day and night. Is this how you tell me about you, about who you are? If so, fine, but personally, I'd rather you tell me in your own words. An occasional forward is one thing, but if that's about the only form of communication you email to me personally or post in an internet group we're in together, I can't help but wonder who you really are. Are you shy? Or, do you have something to hide?
If you must send forwards to communicate your "about me" thoughts - please clean them up. I don't want to see numerous email addresses of all the different people the forward has been sent to and from of late. I definitely don't want my email address forwarded on in the next person-to-person or group-to-group go-round.
I have a MySpace account as well as a Facebook account. In all honesty, the applications they offer for us to apply annoy me - they clutter up your page and I have to dig deep to find the real you. Here again, this may be how you tell me "who you are."
For instance, you share a friendship application that is a bouquet of flowers - sunflowers, your favorite flower, or my favorite flower. It would have meant so much more to me if you'd have spent the time in a graphic program creating a lovely sunflower tag to share. If you're not good at graphics, how about sharing a photograph of the flowers you've grown in a pot on your patio? You could search the many websites online that offer personalized adoptable graphics and find something that says who you are or why you're giving me the gift. Better yet - write me a sunflower poem!
Personalized gifts of a bit of time and a bit of effort say a lot more to the recipient than does an item that was made for a million people to pass around willy-nilly in the name of friendship. Apply yourself. Diligently!
We all know someone who collects memberships to social networks, but who does not participate within these groups and friendship circles. Sure, the group graphic design is awesome and/or the group name describes who you'd like to be, so you sign up and you put that pretty graphic title on your website for the world to see.
Did you create a dedication page on your site for the group? Have you joined in on the daily chatting among the group members? Are you participating in a group committee?
To the point - if you don't have time to spare and share- don't join! Much like joining a bowling league, if you never show up at the bowling alley on league night, your team is short a player. You're an integral part of any community you belong to, so participate.
Needless to say, this, too, is about a sharing of you. Acquaintances are a dime a dozen - true friendship comes with the price tag of sharing of yourself with others.
When was the last time you visited a friend or group member's website? Did you sign their guestbook to let them know you were there, share a thought, or give them a bit of feedback? A person spends a lot of time, effort, and sharing in the design of a website and inviting you into their web home. Say, "Thank you."
I'm sure you thank your offline friends for inviting you to their home for a backyard BBQ, so why wouldn't you practice the same courtesy to your online friends? It only takes a moment of your time and will be appreciated. Spread a bit of sunshine into the guestbook - the life - of another. You may be surprised to find that it is returned - tenfold.
If it is not 100 percent yours or you do not have 100 percent permission to use it - don't!
Whether it's a poem, a photo, a graphic, a quote - whatever it is - please do your best to find the creator and get permission to use it. Without permission, we have no right for any reason, to use anything that belongs to someone else. If we do - it is stealing - plain and simple.
Things online (or offline, for that matter) that belong to others are not there for the taking - they are there for the sharing, and only in the format their creator wishes them shared. Enjoy the creative beauty, thank the creator, and ask permission to use their creation in any way, shape, or form. This is about common courtesy, never mind the legalities.
I recently explained this to a dear friend, in reference to sharing my writings. I told her that the worst thing that can happen to me as an author is to receive an email forward and as I am reading the lovely poem within, I recognize it as one of my own. As if I am not already annoyed enough, I get to the bottom of the writing and the copyright line says, "Author Unknown."
I am PEEVED!