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Help put out the flames

You can’t see faces online, so be extra mindful of how your words may be taken.

One of the big problems with the Internet is the relative anonymity of its users. This means many people tend to send messages with startlingly abusive or explicit content that they would never imagine using if they were holding the same conversation in a room full of real people. Conversations quickly turn to “flame wars” as users race to type their insults in response to any perceived slight. Whether you’re sending e-mail or participating in a live chat, remember that you’re ultimately communicating with another person. Silent text rarely conveys the subtle inflections and body language that we rely on for normal conversation (this is what makes “emoticons” so popular). So the next time you’re tempted to “flame a newbie,” take a moment and imagine that person in the same room with you. A little courtesy and consideration will go a long way toward making the Internet a safer and more enjoyable place to be.

Formerly part of Computer Currents, Stephen J. Bigelow’s Computer Advisor column has been resurrected on as a daily tech tip column. Find Stephen at

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