Rules of the House
A blog is like a house. I’m inside, and everyone else is outside. I’ve locked the front door of my house, but I’ve opened up all the windows so we can talk, and since it’s my house I get to decide what we’ll talk about. But I really like open windows, and I want old and new friends to stop and chat with me. I’m not against closing a window if I need to, but that’s rare–houses are made to live in, not to hide in. So here are my “10 Rules of the House” for when you come to my “home” page to visit (or anyone else’s) and you have a comment to share.
Rule #1: Be concise — A comment is not a blog post. It’s a response to what is said in a blog post. Long comments are not necessarily strong comments. Self-editing is a good thing.
Rule #2: Be precise — Stay on topic for one topic. It’s easy to ramble and try to say too much in a comment. Or worse, try to say too many things. Pick one point and make it well.
Rule #3: Be bold — Feel free to engage and disagree; thoughtful challenge or reasoned counter-opinion is valuable. But take care–boldness can quickly turn into logical obstinance.
Rule #4: Be passionate — Feel free to feel strongly about a topic; strongly held values are valuable. But take care–passion can quickly escalate into emotional intractability.
Rule #5: Be kind — Kindness covers most issues of attitude and tone. It’s not just what you say, but how you say it. Words can help, heal, or hurt. Unkind words close windows.
Rule#6: Be considerate — Consideration covers most issues of virtual actions–be patient, don’t dominate a comment thread, don’t engage in comment wars. Think of others first.
Rule #7: Be discreet — Share only what is yours to share–your own experience, insights, stories, and opinions. You don’t have a right to share others’ opinions and stories.
Rule #8: Be prudent — Share only what is relevant and appropriate to share. If we don’t need to know about your personal problems or perspectives, then let them stay personal.
Rule #9: Be you — Be the person God made you to be, not the persona the Internet makes you to be. Honesty, authenticity, transparency, and humility make the best conversation.
Rule #10: Be godly — “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” (Ephesians 4:31-32)
Having said all that, I hope it all goes without saying. But I do say it because I know, by personal experience and by my own comment fails, that the Internet can easily become like the Holodeck on the Starship Enterprise of Star Trek fame. When the crew entered the Holodeck’s programmed immersive simulator, virtual reality became personal reality. Whether they were there for training or for recreation they knew it was all holograms, yet they would act like what they were experiencing really was real. They became something different in that unreal reality. Perhaps that same “holodeck effect” is what makes us do and say things on the Internet that we normally would not in real life. So the rules above are just about keeping things real. Make it so.