We all know that the internet has a lot of positive uses. Anyone who doesn’t think Wikipedia is a godsend has never placed a bet that needed immediate settling, or written a term paper just hours before it's due. Online dating is responsible for 1 in 5 happy couples; now that's pretty awesome (or sad, depending on your view). And the internet provides a platform for numerous worthy causes, such as raising awareness, supporting charities, and empowering women. It is a tool of expression, a tool of learning, and a tool of connection, reaching nearly 2 billion people worldwide.
But we all also know that anything that is capable of some good is also capable of some evil, and the internet is by no means exempt from this rule. Internet users can simply click away on their keyboards for mere seconds to cause serious damage to themselves and others, on purpose and completely by accident. Just this week, a student at Florida State University-Panama City hacked into the campus’s Wi-Fi network, rigging the system to redirect all users to a porn site.
You’d think most rules of online etiquette would be implicitly understood, but it seems that you really have to spell it out for some people. So here are my top 8 non-negotiable rules on what you should never do online.
1. Don’t accept your parents’ church friends as friends on Facebook
This sounds harsh; it certainly seems like the right, and kind, thing to do at the time. After all, she used to make you patchwork blankets with your name crocheted along the edge. But unless you want to be asked what a nice girl like you could possibly be doing at a club called "Tryst" at 4 a.m. next time you’re home for the holidays, avoid accepting them at all costs. Or at least make use of those handy privacy settings.
2. Don’t order Seamless to your office when you’re really at your apartment
This will result in a seriously angry delivery man on the other end of the line. I’ve been blacklisted from ordering Artichoke Pizza for months now and it’s killing me. Learn from my mistakes.
3. Don’t diagnose yourself on WebMD
In addition to what the website has determined you suffer from, you can now add "increased stress" and “heart attack” to the list. On WebMD, a common case of the sniffles can be diagnosed as one of the telltale symptoms of a rare, incurable, and unpronounceable disease that you've probably never heard of (and probably don't have). Even if you weren't really sick to begin with, now you are, at least with worry.
4. I can't believe I actually have to write this one out, but don't watch porn at the office when a news crew is present
This is specifically directed to the guy above. If you're even thinking about maybe doing it, take a guess if the guy above is still employed. Then think again.
5. Don't accidentally type the person's name you are stalking on Facebook into the status update instead of the search bar
Unless you want multiple friends (including Mike Miller) asking you why you are "Mike Miller," this is best avoided.
6. Don't do anything online at 3 a.m.
Chances are high that it is not a good idea, especially if it involves emailing an ex-boyfriend, emailing an ex-boyfriend's new girlfriend, entering a chat room (unless you want to be on Catfish, of course), or spending your entire savings on Amazon.com. If you really do have a good use for the Internet at 3 a.m., chances are it can wait till the sun is up.
7. Don't buy anything on a website where the text is in a language you can't read.
I had a particularly scarring experience with this in middle school as the result of my ruthless quest for pink sparkly Uggs--which brings up a whole other issue...
8. Don't allow Spotify to announce on your Facebook friends' newsfeeds that you have been listening to the Justin Bieber radio station
Or do. And embrace being unabashedly unashamed. After all, the boy can sing. And he has a full head of luscious hair.