'He's only a racist thug when he's drunk!'
'He's fine when you get to know him socially!'
'He's only a bully at work!'
'He's really nice in real life!'
I've heard all of these excuses but the last one is increasingly common and is generally a response to the question 'Is 'x' that much of a git in real life?'
We all have different personae depending on the situation but unacceptable behaviour is unacceptable behaviour where-ever you are; so it's about time that we stopped excusing bad behaviour in Social Media on the grounds that it's not real life.
For nearly thirty years, I've lived a portion of my life online; from 300 baud dial-up to 50Meg broadband, from text-based MUD to World of Warcraft; many of my closest friends have been met online and I suspect that more people know me by my online names as opposed to my 'real name'.
For me, online is as much real as any other aspect of my life. I suspect it is increasingly true for a lot of you too.
'They started it!'
Disagreement, discourse, debate is all part of real life but do we conduct these in the manner of the playground or as grown-ups? And no-one cares who started it! And I keep wondering when one vendor twitterer is going to ask another one 'When did you stop beating your wife?'
So let's make an effort to raise the current debates from the gutter and back onto the pavement.
Obviously, we all have different standards as to what is acceptable but if you wouldn't say it face-to-face, perhaps you shouldn't say it at all. Start treating online the same way as you do offline and I suspect you won't go far wrong. Some of you might be obnoxious gits offline but the ones of you that I have had the pleasure of meeting are generally charming, personable and I would happily share an evening chatting tech, life and everything with; it would be nice if your online behaviour matched.
'The Internet Doesn't Forget'
And let's just remember; once it's out there, getting it back is pretty hard! And you have a potential audience of many millions.
Time to draw your horns in, take a deep breath, go outside and enjoy the summer (or the winter if you are an upside-down person). Or perhaps kill a few monsters?