Posted: Jul 11, 2012 9:00 AM
Do you know when to share your point of view and when to back off? Have you ever sent an angry email without cooling down and thinking twice? Before you find yourself unfollowed and filtered out, find out if you're acting like a jerk on the internet.

When you're online, it's easy to ignore the real person on the other end of all those magical tubes that make up the World Wide Web. Facebook and Twitter make it easy to pop off quick comments without taking the time to cool down and think about how your words might affect someone. Next time you're tempted to dive into an argument online, consider these questions:

Would you say that in person?

Sure, you have strong opinions about parenting styles and politics and behavior, but would you confront someone else in real life about those opinions? Maybe you don't like tattoos. Would you walk up to a woman with a visible tattoo and tell her that? If you're on your Facebook wall talking about how much you hate tattoos, a friend or relative with ink might be reading it. You don't have to censor yourself, but you should try to maintain the same standards of behavior and kindness you would in person.

Did you cool down?

When you get a rude email or someone confronts you online, your blood starts pumping. Major confrontation is just a few angry sentences and a smash on the return key away. Before you send that righteous reply, get up and walk away from the computer. Take a few breaths. Let your body calm down. Get all that rage-fueled adrenaline out of your body. When you do reply, smile while you type. It'll help you craft a response you won't regret.

Is this really important?

Someone is wrong on the internet. It makes you crazy to read it. Why doesn't this person realize she's completely incorrect? Before you take time out of your day to correct someone, ask yourself if it's really important. Will it matter to you tomorrow? Are you seriously going to change someone's mind anyway? Chances are, what you're dealing with is ultimately inconsequential and not worth starting drama or alienating friends over.

Are you better off walking away?

Sometimes, despite your best intentions, a conversation online can escalate into a full-on fight. We all have little triggers and passions that can lead us into unintentional confrontations. Instead of gnawing away at an online argument, consider just walking away from it. Don't let the internet turn you into a middle schooler passing angry notes between periods. You might feel like you're giving someone else the last word or the last laugh, but you're actually being the bigger person and ultimately, the happier person.

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