This morning I received an email obviously intended for someone else. It was quickly followed by an apology email when the sender realized that dreaded digital sin of sending a candid email to the wrong party had been committed. I was amused rather than angry. The sender was obviously swamped with emails.
I can't tell you how many times I've heard horror stories about this issue. Authors sending nasty emails to their agent or editor instead of to their best friend on whose shoulder they wished to cry about said agent or editor.
That started me thinking that maybe there should be a written code of honor the Internet could follow. So I created one. Hopefully, there won't be the kind of backlash in the real world with this 10 Commandments at the center of controversies.
1. The Internet is not your Lord God.
It's just a vehicle for rapid, one hopes, communication so don't give it your every waking minute.
2. Thou shall not spend more time surfing the Internet and playing online games than you spend playing with your kid and being a companion to your spouse.
3. Thou shall not send a complaining, cursing, or defamatory email without making sure of the name in the To: box.
4. Honor your father and mother and don't say nasty things about them in your blog.
We don't want to hear it. We probably also came from dysfunctional families. If you've got a beef, confront them personally.
5. Thou shall not kill a person's character by defaming them in blogs and forums. People have committed suicide because of this.
6. Thou shall not commit adultery with online romances when you have a spouse or significant other in your life. Spend as much time cultivating that romance as you do an online relationship with a woman who in real life may be incarcerated for murder.
7. Thou shall not steal the words of others even though it's easy to do in this digital world.
The original author of the book you're scanning to upload to a website worked hard to pull those words out of her brain so why should you take away her livelihood? She only makes money if people buy her books. The blog author who committed to consistently publishing every day spends a lot of time working to make his blog compelling so why should you steal his words and pass them off as yours? Do your own work.
8. Thou shall not bear false witness (that means spreading lies) against your neighbor, your boss, your spouse, your friend, your competitors, or your children's competitors.
Children have committed suicide because of this.
9. Thou shall not covet your neighbor's Technorati ratings, Google PageRank, Alexa Rank, or any of the myriad ways to rate a website.
Work on your own site and learn how the PR leaders got those ratings. Then build your own traffic.
10. Thou shall not write anything on a website or in an email or forum that you wouldn't want to see printed on the front page of every newspaper in this country.
When you're angry, don't send emails. Don't post on forums. Don't write blog posts. Ill-chosen words have a way of coming back to bite you. By the way, just in case you didn't know, if you know how to do a search, you can read the text of what are supposed to be private emails. Also, many bulletin boards and forums are crawled by Google which means they also can be pulled up. What you say in moments of anger, live on in the digital world forever.
Think before acting.