Social Expectations and the Internet

In the real world there are social expectations.  

Starting about age 8 or 9, people expect you to start acting appropriately to the situation you’re in.

Before the age of 9, pretty much anything goes. Nobody thinks twice about the 5 year old ring bearer sitting upside down on the church pew at the wedding. It’s even considered adorable and photographed.

But if the 27 year old groomsmen do it, it’s no longer considered acceptable.  

Welcome to the world of social expectations.

These expectations are actually a good thing for the most part. It helps us identify what’s appropriate and non-offensive in any given situation and act in a way that’s not offensive and not disruptive.  

A groomsmen sitting in a pew upside down during the wedding would be very disruptive!

If you choose to ignore social expectations, and then –good or bad (bad for people who struggle to understand these unspoken rules)– people have the option to not hang around you …if you choose to behave in an offensive or disruptive way.

The internet has no such social expectations.  

Or if it does, no one pays attention to it.

It’s like we forget that there’s a real person with a soul on the other side of that screen. 


I’ve talked more about keeping a testimony online in a previous post.

So, in an effort to maintain civility online,  I made myself some rules.

All relationships are based on healthy boundaries. In an effort to keep my online life healthy, I have enacted healthy boundaries.

I block nasty people on Facebook.

Entrance into my mind via whatever device I’m using is a privilege, not a right. No one has the right to tell you anything, and you are not obligated to read or listen to anything just because they said it. If you choose to not be polite, I will block you.

Just as I have the ability to keep myself away from toxic people in real life, I have the ability –if I take it– to keep myself away from toxic people in my online life. 

Proverbs says to guard your heart.

Philippians says think of praise-worthy things. 

Remember the old song from Sunday School: “Oh, be careful little eyes what you see”?

On Facebook, I’ve been very upfront about how I handle offensive and disruptive people: I remove or block them.  

They don’t have a right to spew their toxicity in my direction.  

I currently have blocked about 60 people on Facebook. Most of them are people who troll my friend’s walks or people who troll pages I follow.

If you spew hate and vitriol, I have no desire to see it.

I unfriend people on Facebook.

I unfriended hundreds of people from my personal Facebook account and asked the remaining people to agree to be kind and not cause drama. I boiled my friends list down to the bare minimum and then I posted a list of rules on my wall.

It’s my wall.

You are entitled to disagree on your wall.

Not my wall.

Kind of like you can get mad and destroy your living room if you want –but not my living room.

My yard may look like a public place, but it’s not.

Just like my wall is not.

This idea that social media is public so you can say whatever you want is asinine.  

I don’t go around being nasty and disagreeable on other people’s walls (or in their yards or living rooms), and I expect people show me the same respect.

If people attack my beliefs, call me names, or are generally rude or disagreeable they get unfriended and possibly even blocked (I haven’t had to block any of my friends or family).

If you post drama, regularly try to sell me something, or try to convince me I’m wrong, you’re gone.

I just don’t have the energy for people’s drama, because I have a whole lot of my own drama to deal with.  

This extreme position was necessary because of the negative effect that stress was having on my chronic illness.  I shouldn’t have to be in bed for three days because someone started an argument on my wall.

On this blog, I wrote up a pledge that basically stated that I would keep the blog pleasant and God-honoring.

Just like I wouldn’t let someone have a nasty debate or name call in my living room, I’m not going to allow it on my blog.

The same is true for my author page on Facebook.

We have rules for our homes, so why not online?

I remember Marta, the neighbor girl. She was a teen when I was in grade school. She would come over to visit with my mom and sometimes babysit us. We had rules in our house including no swearing, no smoking, no alcohol, etc. One time Marta swore in our house. My mom told her she could go sit on the porch until she was ready to apologize and come back inside. She did eventually.

Just like homes have rules, being in my online space has rules.

If you’re unkind in my home, I’m going to ask you to leave.  If you’re unkind on Facebook,  I’m going to delete, unfollow, and even block. If you’re unkind on my blog, I’ll delete your comments.

This is actually me being a good hostess.thoughts-prayers-1

This blog is like me having you over for tea and inviting a bunch of people who you don’t know to join us.  How rude of me to let one of my guests verbally attack you –or even me– and subject you to that drama!

That’s not the kind of person I am.

That’s not the kind of people I want to spend time with.

I encourage you to also take control of your online life, too.

Make wise choices.

Be assertive.

Expect decent polite interaction and don’t just accept an online existence that has no rules for social conduct.  

There are no social expectations online because we have suspended those expectations. 

The internet is still real with real people –even though it seems like another world or an imaginary world.

Have integrity in your online life.

Remember that bad company corrupts good character. 

Don’t allow yourself to believe that online relationships don’t count.

They do!

Just as much as letter did in the pre-internet era. Only online is even more impactful than letters.

Paul saw the value in letters, and his letters are still having an impact today.

Don’t underestimate the negative affect that bad online interaction can have on you.

I would throw out and not read a nasty letter.  Why should online be any different?

Above all may your online life reflect wisdom, godly kindness, and be seasoned with grace.

What resulted from my choices was nothing short of beautiful.  I have ended up with a wonderful network of support from my online friends.

If you need a support system  (don’t we all?) this is a great place to start.


Sarah Forbes


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