Over the past two years or so the parts of the Internet that I inhabit have tended to become less pleasant. Messages that I see on a regular basis are just short, rude, and often mean. And the messages that are directed to people who have an online professional presence, such those who write and speak professionally, are increasingly abusive.
I’m one of those writers and speakers, and this year I decided to do something that isn’t particularly normal: when I come across a good piece of writing, or analysis of an issue, or just generally appreciate one of my colleagues’ work, I’ve been letting them know. The messages don’t tend to be long and usually focus on specific things I appreciated (to show that I’m familiar with the work in question) and thanking them for their contributions.
This might sound like a small thing. However, from experience I know that it’s surprisingly uncommon to receive much positive praise for the work that writers or speakers engage in. The times that I’ve received such positive feedback are pretty rare, but each time it’s made my day.
There are any number of policy proposals for ‘correcting’ online behaviour, many of which I have deep and severe concerns about. Simply saying ‘thanks’ in specific ways isn’t going to cure the ills of an increasingly cantankerous and abusive (and dangerous) Internet culture. But communicating our appreciation for one another can at least remind us that the Internet is filled with denizens who do appreciate the work that creators are undertaking day after day to inform, education, delight, and entertain us. That’s not nothing and can help to fuel the work that we all want to see produced for our benefit.