OPINION: Do unto others even on the web

Online Editor

We see and hear it all the time.

The Golden Rule.

People use the saying to refer to the way a person should interact with the people around them. Parents use it as a guideline in good manners for their children.

Though we tend to associate the rule with Christian teachings, some version of the saying can be found in the study of almost any tradition and culture.

Confucius is noted to have said, “Never impose on others what you would not choose for yourself.”

In Buddhism it is written, “Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful.” The words and their order vary, but the sentiment remains: Don’t do something to someone else that you would not want done to you.

With an idea being in existence for so long and being so widely accepted as a basic and integral part of human interaction, people should be accustomed to weaving this idea into each aspect of their lives.

It shouldn’t matter with whom you’re interacting or why. Treat others as you wish to be treated. You always should use it as a guideline for the way you conduct yourself.

And yet, people seem to completely forget it when it comes to online interactions.

As the Internet continues to eliminate the isolation that distance once gave us, it also continues to create a sense of indifference to the people with whom we are connecting.

It’s an amazing thing – the ability to instantly connect with someone miles away when in the past, a letter or long distance phone call would have had to suffice. We can connect from anywhere, and more quickly than ever. Most of the time, all you need is a mobile device and a phone signal, and you can post a comment to YouTube or tweet a thought as soon as it comes into your head.

As much as I love the Internet, I sometimes wonder if being connected so easily and so endlessly is good or bad.

Too many times, people post things online that they never would say to someone face to face. It’s almost as if we forget that we’re speaking with actual living, breathing individuals just like ourselves.

For every comment on YouTube praising the talents of a person who had the courage to upload a video of their singing, there are numerous others spouting negativity and ridicule.

People post homophobic and racist slurs without a second thought. The effect on people’s feelings and life experiences is not considered.

Regardless of whether you’re discussing a funny picture on Reddit or commenting on a serious article on a news site, you’ll always find these people. They hide behind their keyboards and anonymous screen names while being horrible to anyone trying to have a legitimate discussion. They feed off the reactions their animosity brings and revel in the disruptions they cause.

Don’t be one of them.

As easy as it is to post before thinking, do the thinking anyway. Break away from the stereotype that everyone is a jerk online just because some of them can be.

You never know the impact your words will have on someone.

Learn to stop and think before clicking that submission button. Think, not only how your words will affect the person or people you are addressing, but also how those words would reflect on you if you were held accountable for them.

In the end, it’s much better to be the person who positively impacts someone else rather than ruining his or her day or making an already bad situation even worse. We have more than enough of the latter. Make the choice to be the former.

Do unto others.


  1. This is so true it’s not even funny. It is easy to make flippant comments and just spew judgment and disdain when there is seemingly no accountability. One source that comes directly to mind is Facebook, and unfortunately I can’t say I have never said anything rude or inappropriate while browsing. I do, however, try to be discriminating in my comments now due in large part to reading comments by others raking people over the coals. I have read comments by ex-boyfriends and girlfriends, wives and husbands, that have been posted for what would seem to be only to smear the other person, not done privately between two people, but posted for the world to see and comment on.
    Poor judgment is the kindest term for what some people post online, knowing full well how many potential viewers will see what they have written.
    The internet is here to stay, and sadly so is human selfishness and inconsideration. I completely agree with doing to others what you would have them do to you, the reality of that sentiment for most people is the minute they feel angry or hurt it flies right out the window.
    “Doing unto others,” “Turning the other cheek,” and other golden rules are
    words to live by. If everyone remembered and applied them the world would be a much better place.

    • Thank you for reading and for your feedback!

      It amazes me how many intimate details people post on Facebook about disagreements they are having – things that, as you said, should really be kept between them and the other person. I think people do that trying to embarrass and hurt the other person, and never realize the image they create of themselves at the same time.

      In class, we’ve talked about how information online changes all the time – how things can be more easily edited and how pages and sites disappear all the time. It’s hard to see the information as a tangible object when deletion is simple. But all it takes is one person taking a screenshot – and it’s saved forever, regardless of how many times you push the delete button. We see it all the time – people save screenshots of tweets and share on Facebook or Reddit or their blog. No matter how many times something new goes viral, many still don’t seem to realize just how permanent the things they are sending into cyberspace can actually be. And how big the effect from even one small, rude sentence will be.

      I won’t pretend to be above all of this – I wrote this column after feeling like I was drowning in embarrassment because of something rude I said (because being rude on game chat is just as bad as typing out a remark on a website).

      Here’s hoping I learned from my mistake and will make it a habit to think before I speak/type/write.

  2. I fully agree with this article. Our right to freedom of speech does not mean we should abuse it. The way i was taught is “If you can’t say something nice then don’t say nothing at all”. Its little hard to remember that when emotions are flying high, but we still need to restrain our selves. If its online or in person these rules apply to all of us. Its a difficult to remember someones exact words, but the internet remembers everything. Its important to keep this in mind before you hit that send button. Everyone can benefit if we practice these rules.

    • Thank you for reading and for your comment!

      “Our right to freedom of speech does not mean we should abuse it.”

      Last semester, in my mass communications class, I said something similar. We were discussing how people hide behind “freedom of speech” to say a variety of awful things. Yes, freedom of speech is a right given to us as Americans, but I believe it is also a privilege, and one that we should not abuse. Not everyone in the world can say the same and it’s a shame that some that do have this freedom put it to such appalling use.

  3. I love this article. I think everyone should read it and take your thoughts into consideration before they use facebook to be ugly to others. <3

  4. People know when they are saying something to hurt another. Our christian views need to be subtle and honest. When responding to another person a bit of ethics is required. Be the better person, no matter what your spiritual background, it will be noticed by those that matter!

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