Today, a click online can easily destroy a life.

On a flight across Europe I recently listened to the TED talk “Screen Time”, which deals with real-life transformations we influence by our online actions. It got me thinking about ways women (and men) online can change the world for better or worse.

I started writing down online habits I think women were hurting others with. However, thankfully even more upsides of women engaging online came to my mind. Do you agree with these?

The downsides

  • Ruin lives with just one click: Share carefully while browsing the world wide web. Remember the woman tweetingGoing to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white!”. This certainly is a horrible racist message and she might not be a nice person. I won’t defend it. However, thousands of people shared it on Twitter, rant and raved about it; many of them probably without thinking of the consequences. When the woman, Justine Sacco, landed in Capetown, she already lost her job and reputation. Think twice if a click/share has a benefit or important message.
  • Spread sexism. Even though more and more women regard themselves feminists, a lot still criticise other women openly on the internet about their looks, hair, decisions, fight-sexism-wikimedialeadership etc. Let’s admit it. Many go on Twitter making jokes on the ill-fitted jeans of an actress making her look fat or the ‘bossy’ attitude of a reporter. Sure, criticism is allowed! But think twice, if it’s not an unnecessary comment fostering a conservative view on us women.
  • Don’t post awful pictures of others. I know lots of you love to share pictures online. I sometimes do, too. They show where you’ve been, what wonderful experiences you’ve made, which people you care for. But especially with group photos, always think of others. You might look incredible, however, Erin in the corner looks like she had a bit too much to drink. The downside of posting it would be a mad friend. Don’t do it. Or at least ask.
  • Distribute fake news: Not everything online is true. You know this. Before sending on the story about highschool friend Lisa’s divorce or Hillary Clintons alleged paedophile network, make sure to check the source. Don’t make life hard on someone. It’s not worth it and it’s not what female online engagement should look like. Instead, you could do this:

The Upsides

  • Organize events/demonstrations online for a good cause: Take the Women’s March on Washington and elsewhere. A big part of it was organised on the internet. And it turned out to be huge! Over 470,000 thousand men, women and kids gathered to walk for a better future. We need to keep this up.
  • Start petitions online, so many people from all over the world can sign and fight for or against a change worthwhile. You might want to start one yourself or for example sign one against female genital mutilation in India as violation of the human rights of girls and women. Big changes can be made on- and offline!
  • Share articles to empower others. There are so many good stories out there. Of successes, of bad choices, of ideas. All of them were made to be shared and read. If you share-button-wikimediathink something might be relevant to a friend, for example a great article on how to be taken more seriously at work, send it along! Simple is that. It’s a fantastic upside of engaging online!
  • Put the social in social media. I personally often share stories of injustice to women on my personal Twitter or Facebook account. Because I want their voices to be heard and to stand up for them. I also try to support others with comments, cheering them on or celebrating friends for completing their PhD, for founding an own company etc. Because I like to make people feel supported. Even if it’s just by a quick “like” on Facebook.

There are so many ways to compensate the downsides of online actions. Did I miss out on another one? Let me know in the comment section!