After five months in the geocaching community on GroundSpeak's site, but also on other sites, blogs, forums, and on-line resources, I've noticed a similar trend that I've seen in many other on-line communities in my 25 years of participating to electronic communities.
There exists a certain percentage of geocachers who don't realise (or perhaps, simply don't care?) that the content they post in logs is a representation of themselves to the world. And sometimes, the representation is quite unflattering.
It is simply a fact of life today that how you represent yourself online is going to affect your "real" life. The two have become intrinsically intertwined (for better or worse), and can impact your employment or your personal life. Sure, some are extreme examples, and one could argue "How could a geocaching log entry impact my real life?
Well, negative comments have far more "sticking power" than positive comments, and rarely result in a constructive movement forward of the topic at hand. Imagine you've just flamed (intentionally or not) a CO in a log entry. Months later, while caching, you bump into someone else on the trail or at an event who happened to have read your log entry. You introduce yourself, and instantly they've framed a judgment about you. Likely not a flattering one. You can extend the scenario in many directions from here, but I'll tell you directly; I've seen this happen in other social media scenarios, and not end well for the author of the comments.
So, in an effort to help coach those who may be new to this idea, I've presented three simple but important tips I've learned over the years about interacting online and building a positive social media image for yourself, modified for application to our geocaching logs.
1. Don't Log Angry. If you've just had an unpleasant or frustrating experience while out caching, don't log it right away. Geoaching.com allows you to backdate log entries - so take advantage of that feature. Type out your feelings in a text file, then save it on your computer and
go do something else. Something you enjoy, that relaxes you. Come back to it a day later. Give yourself time to relax, and likely, things won't seem such a big deal.
2. Measure Twice, Cut Once. Great advice for carpenters, and the advice also applies to the online world. As in suggestion #1 above, don't hit the "submit" button for your log posting right away. Re-read it. Check for grammar and spelling. Have a spouse, friend, or other proof-read your log entries for you. Any of these methods will give you the opportunity to re-consider content that may negatively reflect on you once posted.
3. Use Honey, Not Vinegar. Make sure your comments are rational, reasonable, and worded humbly. If you feel that a cache or something the CO has done endangers others, or simply displayed poor judgment, then phrase your feedback in a way that "offers feedback in a spirit of humble exploration rather than
declaration, dialogue rather than monologue, curiosity rather than
certainty." - Tony Schwartz. Certainly you've heard that you catch more flies with honey than vinegar? If you haven't heard it before, you've heard it now.