Like in real life, communities are a huge and important concept on the web. There’s no getting around it anymore: if you’re on the internet, then you’re in a community.

Communities can also be dangerous places on the web though; there are a lot of people who use the internet as a mask, a way to vent their anger on people they don’t really know. I think there’s a way to minimize that effect though, and make every community on the web a better place, and it starts with you. Here are five ways to do that.

  • Don’t be a jerk. This is #1 because everything else follows. Key to leaving your jerkiness behind: if you have criticizm to make, prefix it with a complement. “I like that you do A, but I thought you might be able to improve B by doing C.” Helpful. Not jerky.
  • Give a heart for a heart. Someone likes your stuff? That’s great! Why not take 30 seconds to go like one of their things in return? Don’t be picky and selfish and say there’s nothing to like, unless they literally don’t have any content to like. Almost everyone has something that you can like, you might just have to do some digging to figure out why to like it.
  • Be optimistic, not pessimistic. Ralph Nader said “Pessimism has no function. It’s an indulgence of people who have little stamina to confront the challenges of modern life.” Confront the challenge. Be optimistic.
  • Don’t fight back. When meeting a jerk online, don’t fight fire with fire. Instead of being a jerk back, be nice. Here’s where the optimism comes in too: you don’t know what they’re going through. Nothing justifies jerkiness, but it’s easier to understand if you think about what they might be going through. Maybe they were just diagnosed with cancer? Don’t exacerbate the problem, please. Be kind.
  • Leave yourself behind, but not too much of yourself. People like seeing other people show up. So sure, leave a comment or a like or something of yourself behind. But you don’t need to leave everything, save most of yourself for your friends and family. Online communities are great, but they won’t take care of you in the long run.

There you go, my five favorite tips. Go out and be good citizens. Got more tips? Leave them in the comments, or talk to me on Twitter. I’d love to hear from you.

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