Remember Your Online Manners

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Personal Productivity for Lawyers

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Social media, online marketing, and blogging are increasingly becoming part of solo attorneys’ marketing plans. Opening up yourself online, however, means that you can become the target of internet trolls that think the internet does not require manners.

If you find yourself commenting online, think before you type.

Snarky comments stay on the internet

Despite my overly charming personality and writing style, I occasionally get snarky comments on a post. Thankfully, I have received enough nasty comments that I usually laugh. But even when I laugh, I still remember who has taken the time to not-so-thoughfully comment on my post.

Surprisingly, many commentators use their real names and link to their own legal site or legal blog. To each his own, but I’m not real interested in leaving a trail of nasty comments that lead directly to my website. How will you feel when one of those comments comes back to bite you five years from now? Just like e-mails, online comments could also be introduced as part of a motion down the road (although unlikely).

On the flip side, if you leave a thoughtful, smart, or interesting comment, that can lead to the right people to your site. Of course, many people will try and convince you that all publicity (traffic) is good publicity.

Nasty comments only provide temporary satisfaction

On rare occasions, an internet troll gets the best of me and I end up writing a snarky reply. Admittedly, it feels good at that time. Fifteen minutes later, not so much. I usually get annoyed that I let the person get under my skin and I am even more annoyed that I wasted two minutes of my life responding.

From my experience, the temporary satisfaction pales in comparison to taking the high road. Even better, sometimes other people will do your dirty work—other commentators will come to your defense.

In many ways, receiving a nasty comment is similar to receiving an angry e-mail from opposing counsel. If something makes you mad, take some time to cool off before responding. In most cases, you’ll realize that doing nothing is the best course of action. Unless, of course, you want to be a troll.

(photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/wiredfornoise/4110574024/)

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  • Thanks for this reminder that it is still possible to burn a bridge, even if it’s started with electronic fire.

  • So true, Randall! I’ve also received some nasty comments and seen the work of certain commenters who specifically targeted Lawyerist for traffic. I wonder if people would say these things in person, or if they think the goal of comments is to spark a fire? As much as I (and most lawyers) enjoy a good argument I feel pity for the person who resorts to ill-mannered behavior and automatically declare myself the winner.

  • Very nice post, Randall. And sadly, it is much needed. It seems that people are so willing to take-on an alternate persona in cyberspace, but their rudeness is just as damaging as if it were done in person. I was recently the target of such a snarky comment and it really stung (I accidentally used the word “Its” instead of “It’s” and a commenter asked if I graduated from Beer Can University). Thanks for this gentle reminder.

  • And remind yourself, you can’t get trolls unless people reading your stuff. Consider them a badge of honor.

  • I agree that you must use discretion when writing comments. It is one of the core rules of netiquette. Not only can it stay on the net, but a screen shot can save it forever. NetworkEtiquette.net