In 2012, a mean-spirited photo of Balpreet Kaur was posted on Reddit with the tag – “not sure what to conclude from this.”. The photo was taken without Balpreet’s knowledge in a cafeteria of the Ohio State University where she was a student. In fact, she was not aware of the post until a friend alerted her on Facebook. Balpreet was not an active social media user at the time and was tempted to just let it go without a response. However, the photo was getting a lot of attention and Balpreet took up the challenge to educate readers who were clearly curious, if not mean-spirited. Here is a snippet of her thoughtful response. The full story can be read on Mashable.com.
“I’m not embarrased or even humiliated by the attention [negative and positve] that this picture is getting because, it’s who I am. Yes, I’m a baptized Sikh woman with facial hair. Yes, I realize that my gender is often confused and I look different than most women. However, baptized Sikhs believe in the sacredness of this body – it is a gift that has been given to us by the Divine Being [which is genderless, actually] and, must keep it intact as a submission to the divine will.”
How do you think Balpreet’s thoughtful, engaged response contributed to her digital tattoo? What are your responsibilities as a community member, or as a digital citizen when you post something? What are the rules of these user-managed communities? What can they provide – and how can you contribute?
Part of being a digital citizen is responsibility towards your own community and to the wider world. Reddit’s administrators offer a code of conduct – Reddiquette – whose first point is “Remember the Human.” Online communities such as subreddits are as real as those offline, and there is an obligation for users to behave as they would offline. When the Boston Marathon bombings took place, Reddit users took it upon themselves to investigate and falsely accuse a missing person, who was later found dead. This illustrates the responsibility of the user to the community, and that of online communities to the wider world.
While some subreddits make a point of having no rules or strange rules (such as one where you may only post “Cat.” ), others are more rigorously moderated and require their members to abide by a specific set of standards. This is not necessarily a democratic process, and disagreements between community and moderators has caused splits in the past. Participation in any online community necessitates honest and authentic communication, and a much-beloved biologist on Reddit – ‘Unidan’ – was banned from posting because of vote-manipulation.
While these examples illustrate a darker side to Reddit, the overwhelming majority of users make positive contributions to their communities, and the site serves as a platform for all sorts of charities, gift exchanges, discussion and learning. Online communities can be excellent resources and provide many benefits for their users, provided those users exhibit digital citizenship.
- Following the rules is a good first step to meaningful engagement. Holding yourself accountable to the guidelines, contributing by voting or posting, and communicating honestly should help you develop a good reputation among other users.
- Consider Reddiquette’s “Remember the Human” – it’s an excellent rule to follow, both on- and off-line.
Understand your community
- The digital identity of the community interplays with those of its users; if you are associated with a community, think about how it could affect your own digital identity.
- Think about the benefits and resources your community provides, and consider contributing to such.
- Active participation in a reputable online community can reflect well on a particular user’s digital identity; while Reddit is anonymous to an extent, it is possible to discover people you know and there are many real-world examples of people being outed without their consent. If you choose to participate in an online community, consider how it affects your digital tattoo!
- The Long Hair Forum | Mane
- Reddit sets new Content Policy | Reddit
- Responding To Cyberbullying: Top 10 Tips for Adults |CyberBullying.org
- Safety & Security | Twitter Help Center
- Reddit: A Beginner’s Guide (2013)
- WorldNews | Reddit
- Ask Me Anything: AMA | Reddit
- Ask Reddit | Reddit
- What’s new on Reddit | Reddit Blog
- Online Community Etiquette | Dummies.com
- Social Media Etiquette | Forbes (2013)
- Reddit doesn’t support 2FA – a hacker just proved why it should | Naked Security (2016)
The Digital Tattoo Project encourages critical discussion on topics surrounding digital citizenship and online identity. There are no correct answers and every person will view these topics from a different perspective. Be sure to complete the previous sections before answering the questions.
- Have you ever participated in an online community? What was your experience?
- What are the potential implications to your digital tattoo when you participate in an online community?