The Golden Rules of the Internet

The Golden Rules of the Internet

The other week I met someone who told me that they wish their life was as perfect as mine. Now let me break down my reaction for you. First I laughed. Then I realized it was more of a serious situation, so I looked confused. Then I blushed. Then I asked what in the world that person was talking about.

She explained that she reads my tweets sometimes or sees my updates on Facebook and assumed that I live an awesome life because I seem so happy. I was very flattered by this, but it is also precisely why I laughed and looked confused. I am happy, but I didn’t think that made me abnormal. Talk to anyone who you think lives an amazing life, and they’ll probably have the same reaction. I do love my life. INFINITELY. But the internet can really skew perception.

We have a tendency to only share the good things online. The happy, the proud, the great. And those things we are less proud of get left out…like how yesterday I accidentally shut a door on an elderly woman. That was very bad. I felt very bad. I apologized profusely. We’re good now.

But in truth, following anyone on the internet can be a bit daunting. There is so much self-praise and self-promotion that it is easy to look at someone else’s life and think that they have it all, when really most of us are on a pretty level playing field in the grand scheme of things. We all have truimphs and fears and doubts and successes, but what we share of ourselves becomes how other people know us. So if we don’t share everything, we are misrepresenting who we truly are.

It isn’t natural to share about how scared we are that we won’t have enough money to survive. Or how difficult is to support a family while trying to make art. Or how afraid we are that someone won’t like what we post. Or how we obsessively watch our Facebook likes, always trying to get to the next meaningless milestone.

I don’t post anything negative on the internet because I don’t want to be a negative person. So if I think something bad, I mentally scold myself and try again. I don’t put that out there into the world. The internet could definitely use a little less bad mojo.

I try to be sincere, as sincere as I possibly can. And that is, I believe, the key to the internet..or at least using it meaningfully. To be your best self. To share yourself uniquely and individually. To represent who you are truthfully. And to give passionately.

These are my internet rules that I live by:

1. When you ask a question, want to hear the answer.

2. When someone says hello, try to say hello back. 

3. If you write something on the internet, make sure it is your honest opinion said in the kindest way possible.

4. When you are sharing, remember that the world does not revolve around you. Invite others into your world. Coexist.

5. Remember to cherish anyone who interacts with you. 

6. Do not let numbers interfere with personal experiences. One “like” or 500, be grateful for each individual.

7. Give yourself as sincerely as you would like others to.

8. Help others. Elevating one person can lift many.

9. Share your failures. We all fail. Embrace it.

10. There is no need to brag about success. Let it come and let it flow naturally, but never boast.

Do you have any rules for yourself when it comes to your online persona?

My life is happy, but no ones life is perfect; if it were, there would be nothing more to strive for. So take pride in the fact that we’re all a little messed up – we fail, do stupid things, we worry and we feel heartache. And all of this makes up the human experience, which I think we should share freely when our hearts grow too big and need to spill into the expansive land called the internet.

Be the best version of yourself, and everyone will have a better vision of you.


64 thoughts on “The Golden Rules of the Internet

  1. yes, indeed, we’re all guilty of worrying about how others perceive us.. do they like me, do they like my work, etc… these are questions every individual asks often. it certainly seems amplified in this digital age where we can have that instant gratification.

    i personally make efforts to put only positive things, words, thoughts out into the interwebs. when i’m feeling off or have a bad thought, i’ll try to journal, just to get it out. not a perfect process, but a process nonetheless and hey, what’s “perfect” anyway?!

    thanks for sharing Brooke!

    ~ kate

    1. I love that Kate. I think there is a fine line between whining on the internet and being true to your feelings. I personally don’t share so much in the moment when I’m upset, but I will try to turn those sentiments into a more eloquent blog to let others know how I’m feeling, yet still putting it out there in a way that might benefit others. It’s okay to be vulnerable, and in fact is the one thing that connects us all, whether we share it or not. SO much love to you Kate – miss you!

  2. Yes yes yes Brooke! Life is too short not to always try to be your best self! There is enough strife and sadness in the world, so why litter the internet with even more. Always best to find the silver lining, it’s gonna be there somewhere. I do my best to share others work, comment, like, and appreciate their art as often as I post my own creations. If I never interacted with anyone, then why would people want to come back and talk to me in the future?

    1. Yes exactly Robert! I love that attitude. The more you give the more you get, certainly. And you really are a bright and shining example of this, online and in person. You are an amazing person and I’m very glad to know you.

  3. Such great points that needed to be said. I think, conversely, it is so easy to hate ourselves when we compare ourselves to other’s online personas.

    1. Donna, yes sadly I agree. But that is why the internet is such a slippery slope – we never know how someone is truly feeling, and all we can do is hope that we are not alone when things aren’t going so well.

  4. I’ve been guilty of comparing my real life to the lives that others reveal online too. It’s not a fair comparison. Living your best, most authentic life is really all that matters.

  5. Darn. I was juggling ten things at once and accidentally commented on fb instead of here. Oh well. Good post. Hope your day goes well:)

  6. I love this. I love the sincerity of it.

    If I have any online rules, it is try to to support everyone and not to come from a place of jealousy, envy or fear… even though sometimes in my heart I feel overwhelmed and wish I was better, more talented, etc. I try to treat everyone with respect. I try to share any knowledge I gather and genuinely hope that it is found as helpful and not “Cliff Clavinely”.. You are a fantastic inspiration to me and these rules that you posted made me happy that I follow a nice person’s work. 😀

    1. You are wonderful Beth. I think truly this is the key to kindness – not letting your personal doubts or fears or jealousy get in the way of a beautiful interaction. I love that. <3

  7. such a great post. it is soo easy to get caught up up in the part u see of someone omline and raise them in your mind as this amazing flawless perfect rockstar and then doubt yourself to be that perfect. i love how you try to be soo positive and geniune online as in your real life. i admit i was slightly obsessed-fangeeked over meeting ThE BROOKE SHADEN. lol. but if im going to have a role model im glad its you. 😉

    1. You are just wonderful dearest Robin. I think you are so amazing, even if you do make my face turn bright red in public by insisting on using my full name ;-D looooove

  8. It is so easy to forget that we are all on the same journey sometimes and others lives are usually not as exciting or trouble free as we sometimes imagine. My dogs have just run through the house with muddy paws that my husband should have wiped and as i am menopausal he better hide the knives Only joking 🙂

  9. My one rule is: Keep It Professional. Since my Facebook page is an entre into my business I have had to dial back a lot of what I post, which isn’t really a bad thing, I just try to be mindful of what the things I post say about me. On the other hand I try not to keep it all business because I still want it to speak to my personality and what kind of person they’d deal with in working with me or my business. Then of course there is the “Thumper Rule”: If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all. I try to live by this too, but occasionally I become a little vociferous on topics about which I am passionate. Again, I try to keep it dialed back and, of course, professional. In short, my online persona is fairly WYSIWYG! 🙂

    1. I like that! I try to do the same, although my definition of “professional” I’m pretty sure could use a little clean-up! haha!

    2. I guess for me “professional” means how I would like to be treated and talked to in a similar situation and let that be my guide. My 9-5 is in the legal profession, but I find that to be a little uptight and stiff, so I let the hair down a little for my “other” business. So far so good 🙂

  10. I love this post and I love your rules. I am guilty of feeling lame when I read posts form people I follow that are so successful with their art and are seemingly living the dream. It makes me doubt that I’ll ever get there. That being said, I am happy and annoyingly bubbly so I have been told that my life is perfect (on a non art related dimension) and it also made me chuckle because most days I feel like I am barely keeping it together haha. It’s easy to assume the grass is greener just based on what we put out there, but the truth is we are all fighting a battle, we are all on a journey. Your sincerity and kindness is very evident in your work and your words and I truly love it.

    1. I love that you said that! I would also love to give you a big hug in person!! You are so kind and lovely! And I really, really like “annoyingly bubbly” people 😀

    1. From one Annoyingly Bubbly person to another, keep up the good work! Especially on a Monday morning. The world needs more cheer and coffee. . . lots and lots of coffee 🙂 Brooke, I love reading your blogs they reaffirm so much in my life and where I want it to go. Since discovering your work and words along with one other beautiful person my creative life has exploded. I don’t get much sleep but I am happy, deliriously so. Don’t get me wrong, life isn’t perfect but it’s mine and I have it by the horns


  11. This is such a great post Brooke, thank you for sharing! I have been thinking about this topic a lot recently and came to the realization that our society places a great amount of pressure on us to be happy (or at least be perceived that way).

    I feel that being honest about failure, fear and uncertainty comes with shame because our society has become so desensitized to true emotions. Happiness is seen more as a commodity and something we can obtain by /doing/ versus as a human emotion and something that we feel by /living/.

    I really admire your posts because they are so honest and open. You inspire me not only with your art but how you live your live. Thank you for sharing your insight on this topic and I am glad that you and the elderly woman made up! 🙂

    1. Thank you so much for commenting Alex – I love what you have to say about doing vs. living. That is something wonderful for me to think about today! You are very kind!

  12. Oh, the comparing mind… it is so easy to believe that others live is perfect and beat yourself up for not being there yet. I think it is a good thing to share the good things, because we can uplift each other. But, that being said, we also need to know that not everything is as perfect as it seems, and we need not to judge ourselves. We all have different paths. My rules for my online persona (that’s not very developed) is to be gentle, truthful and kind. Other rule is not to live so much on the online world that will take me away from the real world. Sending you much love!

    1. Yes I love that…not living so much on the internet so that we can enjoy the rest of the world. I try to do the same. Started with disabling notifications and now I hardly ever touch my phone.

  13. I think the worst thing we can do is compare with others online. And keep ourselves asking : why are we not getting so many likes than our peers’ work. If we only worry about the recognition, I don’t think we are following the right path. The most important thing is to be able to create and have the chance to share what we feel so passionate about with others.

    1. That’s exactly right – if we worry too much about what others are thinking we are ignoring our own journey.

  14. Brooke,

    I couldn’t have expressed this any better. You nailed it. I’m working at being a naked writer. No, not sitting naked… being vulnerable, open, and expressive… it’s hard.

  15. I remember many years ago when I was dealing with people and you took the time to talk to me. I’ll never forget that and you will always be such an inspiration to me and my work. <3

  16. Thank you for another eloquently honest post, Brooke. It can be daunting to look at other people’s work and easy to fall into a self-critical place.

    I often have to remind myself that when I look at the work of someone I admire, I’m looking at their highlight reel. When I look at where I am, all I see is the bloopers or outtakes.

    When I interact with people online the only rules I have are:
    -Be genuine
    -Be gentle
    -Have all the facts

    Sending happy thoughts to you and all your readers. 🙂

    1. I love those points you make – being genuine is incredibly important. Being gentle is the kindest thing, and having facts…something that so many people overlook. I try never to speak from a place of truth, only opinion.

  17. Hi Brooke 🙂 Can you tell me, how to take sharp self photos if anyone doesn’t help me with it? I have tried with my 50mm 1.4 and every were fuzzy. 🙂

    1. Hi Patrycja! When I take self-portraits I use a remote if I can and I set the focal point roughly to where I think my head will end up 😛 Otherwise, I use my 10-second timer and try to find something in the area that can “sit in” for me, like an extra tripod, a chair, etc…and then focus there and get in place. I hope that helps!

    2. Hi Patrycja! This is something I’m trying to perfect too 🙂 I’ve discovered it is easier to start with a smaller aperture (around a 5.6 or 8) and then as you get the hang of it you can open up. I also started with more static poses and am still to work up to more dynamic ones – next challenge!

      I take my hat off to you if you can get anything in focus even with a remote on 1.4!!

  18. It’s funny to read this, since I posted the following on my FB feed this morning:

    Look where you are in your own life.. I mean, really look. Take some time to register the things you appreciate about being who you are.. Look at the things you have, the friends you’ve made, the experiences you’ve had.. Don’t go out at sunset and “appreciate” the sunset, appreciate the fact that you can see and enjoy the sunset. Appreciate your partner if you have one. Appreciate your children if you have them.

    We, you and I and the rest reading this, are a lucky few who have that ability. We have so much in our lives, but sometimes we forget what we have because all we see is what we have not.. These moments are so fleeting, like a sunset, they eventually pass and change.. Take your time and enjoy and savor every moment..

    1. I really like that Jon. I especially like how there is more to appreciating what you have than just the thing itself, it is about appreciating your ability to experience it. Lovely.

  19. Totally agree with you. And it is not only a phenomenon of the internet. It is also in television or Cinema… People always have a tendency to believe that public figures such as actors, athletes, politicians (…), have a good life and yet they are people, or better, human like any other. As the rules on the internet, honestly Brooke, I never thought of that. On the Internet, I’m me. I’m simply as in real life. I agree with your rules and I apply them also. But I prefer to apply them in real life. Nothing beats sharing a hello, a smile, a hug, an honest opinion, a thank, a look like yours in this photo, say like in real life. In other words, be someone in the eye. And there is one thing we cannot share in the internet, a friendly kiss. And thank you for sharing this photo, which is awesome.

  20. My motto online is never say or do anything you do not stand behind or would not say or do to someones face .

  21. Really interesting rules. It’s interesting what you say about only share good things. I think on the Internet, specially on Facebook, there is many people sharing their sad moments on a “wrong” way, I’ll try to explain that with my poor english. They seem angry with everyone, they just complain themselves, and they just try to catch attention. If I share something sad, I try not to share it this way. Instead, I try to tell about the learnings or just the feelings but in a calm way. I just simply share, but I do it really rarely, because I think it is more positive to share “good” feelings, and people can benefit more from that. Maybe I’m wrong! And your post made me think a lot, because, I have to confess, I’m one of those people that often believe that you live a dreamed life 😉 Thank you for sharing. BTW, I loved your video “Fittier, happier and more productive”, it helped me a lot as I’m going through some difficult times 🙂 thank you!

    1. I agree Monica – so many people complain instead of trying to see their hardships as learning experiences…and don’t get me wrong, sometimes we just need a place to vent. But other times it becomes gratuitous and self-depricating. We all need hugs 😉

  22. Reminds me of this dialogue from the movie ” The Social Network”

    Erica Albright: Well, why don’t you just concentrate on being the best you you can be.

    Thank you once again, Brooke. Whatever you share hits me hard ( mostly in a good way) because you speak so honestly.

  23. Brooke, you never fail to impress me. You are like an old soul with a modern twist. You are so wise and well spoken. That is why your art is so beautiful. It comes from your soul and your heart. One thing I love about you is that it seems like you speaking to each of us individually. So genuine. So sorry I couldn’t make it to the Pasadena event to meet you last month, but I hope to go to some event or workshop of yours in the future. I look forward to these blog posts everyday! They actually make my day.

    1. Diana you are SO kind. I can’t begin to tell you how much your words lift me up. Thank you for being so kind. I know our paths will cross soon enough! And thank you for reading this blog…it is my passion <3

  24. 🙂 I try really hard not to be negative and not to rant too much. I try to think about all my friends who are a lot like me and so I know my rant will be sympathized with .. so then I think, why fuss? Look to the bright side and move it along. So that’s what I try to do … but on occasion I just have to fuss a little. lol 🙂

  25. This is wonderful. It seems to come at the perfect time! The internet can show and not show a lot of thing about people, good or bad, and give many different representations and misrepresentations. It can be a gift in many ways and not in many others. But it truly is best to simply show your best self.

  26. Another inspirational and honest blog post to adore…

    I’ve always found it curious that for a medium that is so rooted in communication, that it can also be so lonely. We work in isolation often but typically hope to share, have our images appreciated, continually build a bigger audience, get feedback… Many photographers don’t comment on other photographers work because they fear losing their audience, or customers, or whatever.

    My hope is by trying to be the most transparent, kind and open person I can, that I can rid myself of those moment where I’m worrying about what others are doing, feeling defeated or alone. Instead appreciate the gifts I’ve been given and pursue what brings me joy.

    I not only adore the work you create, but love following your messages and videos. All the best to you! 🙂

    1. Joe, that is really admirable. I love that you are trying to be open and honest and giving. I can see it in you. Thank you for sharing with me here.

  27. It’s hard to remember that there is a whole other side to people beyond what they choose to share online. I try to remind myself that I only share the positive moments and I’m not perfect, so neither are the people I follow.

    I have a real love-hate relationship with Facebook, there are days where I feel it takes over my life and I’m waiting for something to happen or I look up and I’ve wasted an hour reading trash. So something I’ve been trying to do lately is share things with my friends that I think are worth reading, real inspiration rather than whatever is viral 🙂

  28. From a personal perspective, I like to keep my private life private, so my posts are pretty generic, polite, respectful & on point (hopefully). I wouldn’t want to post anything to upset anyone or anything that could come back and bite me on the butt! lol

    I think your bubbly nature gives the impression everything in your life must be so wonderful, fairy-tale & magical, just like your art. but I think it’s more a case of you valuing the good & fulfilling parts, (as do I) enjoying them and letting them lift you up. Not always easy we all get bogged down at some point, but experiencing pain, heartache etc makes us appreciate the wonderful things we DO have and they are precious. Count your blessings is the old addage and it is SO true. x

  29. Well put. I love your honesty and straight forwardness. Happiness is from the inside. It is our heart talking. If we put negativity in it, negativity will come out. We all should live by our convictions and not circumstances. It sounds like you have a good base of convictions.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *