Getting and Giving Respect Online
Respect comes in many forms; some types have to be earned, while other forms should automatically be given out of courtesy. It means showing consideration of another person's feelings, ideas, standards, needs, preferences, uniqueness, peculiarities, and their property. Respect means you acknowledge the person, take them seriously, and are honest with them.
While everyone wants to be respected, what comes through online may not feel as if that respect is being received or given. There are a several reasons this may be happening, and there are things you can do to have a more consistent, respectful online experience.
If you don't feel respected online, here are a few questions to consider:
1. Do you respect yourself online? If you don't respect yourself, you make it open season for everyone else to disrespect you. There is a clear line between making the occasional joke at your expense and becoming a joke. The first person you need respect from is yourself; it is very hard to respect anyone else if you do not you respect yourself. This means listening to how you feel and respecting those feelings, being honest with yourself showing yourself kindness, and not cutting yourself down. This is not self-delusion or self-aggrandizement; it is honestly knowing and valuing yourself with both your faults and merits.
2. Have you positioned yourself to be respected? Does your profile and photo show you as someone to respect? Not someone to fear, not someone 'sexy', but someone who can be respected for who you are. Do your comments deserve respect or are they rude, discriminatory, illiterate, or foolish? Do you show respect for others comments, ideas and values? Do you listen to what your friends are saying through their comments and provide thoughtful responses, or are all your comments trashing them or focused on you?
3. Are you good at what you do? This information quickly shines through online. For teens, the question can be harder than it is for adults with professional lives, but we respect people who are good at what they do - whether they are good listeners, honest friends, talented experts, always have an optimist's outlook, have survived tough times, or make a mean cupcake. Building this kind of respect takes time and consistency, but being good at what you do commands its own respect.
4. Do you show respect for others? Respect works both ways, if you trash others online you won't receive their respect - and you aren't likely to get the respect of anyone else who sees how you trash people. If you want respect, give respect.
5. Are you kind? Let's face it; it's hard to respect a jerk. You can provide (and receive) honest feedback, criticism, disagree, or stick to your views while still being kind and respectful.
6. Do you have integrity? Say what you mean and mean what you say. It is hard to respect someone who says one thing yet does another, or promises something they don't deliver.
7. Is a comment aimed at you disrespectful, or are you misinterpreting? Sometimes comments are hard to interpret and what was meant to be funny doesn't come across that way. It may be because of your mood at the time you read it, the clumsy way they wrote it, or the weird mood they were in. For all the advantages of online communications, a clear disadvantage is that you usually don't have the visual clues you would get when speaking face to face, or the tonal clues you would get from hearing the comment, or the contextual clues helping you understand where the person is coming from. On top of these hazards, the person may be multitasking (which people always imagine they master better than they actually do) and not even aware that your responses are getting more agitated. Before busting into a flame war over assumed disrespect, just ask. Using emoticons - smiley faces - can also help ensure others understand a comment was meant lightheartedly.
8. Are people disrespecting your privacy? The first question to ask here is have you even let people know what you think is ok - and not ok - to share about you? Do you actually know what your friends and family consider ok to share vs. disrespectful?
It's rude to expose information about someone - including pictures and videos — without their permission. The only way you'll know what they want kept private is to ask them; and the only way for them to know what you want private is to tell them. Unfortunately, shockingly few people ever ask about boundaries until information has been overshared and a problem arises. Take a few minutes to find out how to respect friend's boundaries, and explain how they can respect yours. Ask that any offending, or exposing information be taken down - and return the courtesy.
9. If someone doesn't act respectfully towards you, why keep them as a contact? Offline and online, don't associate with toxic, rude or disrespectful people. Don't lash out and stoop to their level, simply drop them from your contacts and your online life.
10. Do you really know who is disrespecting you? Face-to-face you know exactly who is disrespecting you, but online jerks can appear to be someone else. If you get an angry, rude or disrespectful comment, text, email, photo, etc., that surprises you, consider whether the person it appears to be from is actually the person behind the meanness. It is easy - and free - to spoof a phone number, it's easy to shoulder-surf and see someone's password and hijack their account, and it can be tempting to jerks to hide their identity and use the information to create drama between friends, humiliate someone by sharing a private comment or photo they discovered, and so on.
11. Online the ultimate disrespect comes through cyberbullying, harassment and online crimes like ID theft, hacking, and setting people up for risk. If any of these occur, take immediate action. Get the help and support you need. Block this person from any further contact. Keep records of any exchanges, attacks, or other issues. Notify the service the abuse occurs on, as the company should take immediate steps to remedy the situation. If there is a threat of physical violence, or the situation warrants intervention, contact your local law enforcement. Many teens and adults are shocked to discover that their bullying or harassing behavior may actually be criminal; check the laws in your state to learn if their actions constitute crimes.