Let’s just remember one little thing, shall we?

And that is….

Social media isn’t real life.

While it’s a part of today’s real life, it’s not at all a substitute for it.

My friend said something very salient a few days ago, and honestly, I can’t say she’s wrong. The Internet has done a lot to ruin general maturity in people. The clickbait headlines, the ongoing deluge of knee-jerk reactionary behavior, the hate-mongering trolls in any comments section, the fierce holier-than-thou moralism that has been further exacerbated with the ability to instantly air one’s opinion worldwide – all of that adds up to grown people just no longer knowing how to act grown.

Look, none of us are wholly innocent of this. We all have our hard-line topics that we get heated about, and I am going to be the first to admit to my temper being my shortcoming. And yeah, I catch heat for it. Deservedly so.

One of the greatest skills I learned, though, was standing up and saying, “This is not acceptable behavior and I won’t stand for it.”

I find myself doing that more and more lately, but I also find myself being more than a little bit pissed off about it. Simple reason. Ready?

I should not have to tell people nearly twice my age to act their age.

Seriously. Granted, the reason wasn’t related to social media, but the last person whom I had to light into was 54. Fifty-four – and acting like a teenager. There’s a point where it’s just plain ridiculous. If you’re in your fifties, sixties, seventies, etc. you should not have to be told what does and doesn’t constitute acceptable behavior from someone half your age. I mean, you are supposed to be adults here, and yet here I am telling you that the way you’re acting is unacceptable? There’s something really wrong with this picture.

This is in general, but the Internet has just made it so much easier to forget certain things. Like boundaries, or common sense. Or just plain being a decent person.

Social media made watching people’s lives a piece of cake, and frankly, no one benefits from it. For those of us who are on the receiving end of being watched, it’s aggravating at best. For those of us who, at any point in our lives, had reason to be concerned for our safety bcause someone watched a little too closely, how do you suppose being watched online feels?

Hint: it doesn’t feel anywhere even close to how good you feel doing the watching at your screen.

Seriously. People. You’re twice my age. Do you not have families? Jobs? Hobbies? Lives? Come the hell on. Why the hell are you so concerned with other people’s online activity, or what they say or do? If you want to make friends, then trust me, skulking around online is not the way to do it. Moreover, no matter how subtle or slick you think you’re being when you sneak around on someone’s page… you’re not. You’re really not. And it’s honestly sad that you can’t handle being called out when you’re caught – either own up to it, or stop doing it in the first place. Not a difficult concept to master.

If you don’t know how to behave at your age, you’ve got far bigger problems than anything people say/do/think about you.

So. Let’s establish some basic rules of etiquette online:

1. Every website has a means of recording visitors, and unless it’s on FB where you hit like and identify yourself, the owner of the website is guaranteed to know your exact IP address, and it’s basic child’s play to track an IP address to its owner and location. So please don’t pretend how it wasn’t you, or you don’t know what I’m talking about, or someone “hacked” you… seriously. Just. Stop. We already know it’s you.

2. If you keep looking at someone’s page, either you say something and have a conversation, or at least make a modicum of effort not to get caught skulking around. If you don’t know someone, spend a ton of time on their pages, and don’t make any effort at all to engage them in conversation, then what you’re doing is basically stalking.

3. When called out, own up to it and don’t go into the BS lines of how you “don’t have time” for this, or how you “don’t play games” and so on. Obviously, you do have time for it, else you wouldn’t have gotten caught doing it in the first place!

4. Remember that people’s online activity is their own, and they do it for their own reasons, that it has nothing to do with you, and it’s not there to fulfill your desire to be entertained at their expense.

This is something I really cannot say enough. I’ve been online since before Facebook was a thing. I’m from the Livejournal and AIM generation of social media. Too many times I’ve had to deal with people going, “Well, you shouldn’t be online if you don’t want people looking at your shit!” – and I will say it again: you’re missing the entire damn point. People are online and they write, etc. because they. want. to. do that. For themselves. For their outlet. They don’t keep blogs forĀ your shits-and-giggles. They don’t write about their lives because you want free entertainment.

That’s why performing artists and celebrities exist, for whom entertaining is a business. They are there for your entertainment. Not the rest of us Ordinary Folks.

And need I even say it? Don’t. Be. A troll. Just don’t.

Seriously, people. Make plans, do something with your family and friends, or take a walk outside. Get away from the screen.

I have a dinner with a friend at my favorite watering hole after work tonight. I am looking into and comparing prices for my next level of professional education. I’m seeing some great music over the summer and working on more photography.

And some of my best moments are usually things that aren’t on social media. They don’t have to be.

Kat G.