05/05/2010 03:12 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Making Nice in Cyberspace: Planting Positive Seeds in the Virtual Universe

How would you feel if there were a permanent place online where people could anonymously rate you, as they would a restaurant or product, and you had no control over what they said? Unfortunately, we're talking not about a hypothetical scenario, but a jarring new reality, thanks to the recent beta launch of the controversial new website, Unvarnished.

As Evelyn Rusli of TechCrunch describes it, Unvarnished is essentially "Yelp for LinkedIn," a site where anyone can anonymously create a professional profile for someone else and write their own review. But, in this instance, neither the review nor the profile can ever be removed. With many Web experts claiming that the release of Unvarnished indicates the next step in the evolution of social media, it once again got us thinking about the power of small, nice acts in the digital space -- and now with no ability to "delete" on sites like this, they've become more important than ever.

We live in a brave new world where stream-of-consciousness meets streaming media and unprecedented power lies in 140 characters or less. Facebook "like" endorsements and user generated content sites like Yelp let "netizens" provide instant commentary on virtually any subject. And now that subject could be you.

Since our book, The Power of Nice: How to Conquer the Business World with Kindness, first made the bestseller list, we've witnessed how the simple act of being nice can help you succeed in the real world, both professionally and personally. And now that the social media explosion has revolutionized the way in which people all over the globe communicate, the same holds true in the digital one.

Welcome to the world of nice 2.0: a community of billions where every digital gesture has the power to affect the looking-glass world we peer into every day.

Each comment, link and "like" become the building blocks of our digital resumes, shaping how we perceive others and how they perceive us. And as a result, a simple Google search can have life-altering consequences. A "nice" online profile can seal the deal with a prospective client or employer, while appearing snarky, mean or inappropriate on just one site can have the opposite effect. Online, negative interactions are like worms, diffusing throughout your network and ultimately infecting every part of your life. Even unintended controversies, born out of a careless Tweet or a virtual snub, can soon grow out of control.

With social media evolving at warp speed, it's hard to determine the exact formula and nuances of the "Web playbook" for success. But one thing is for sure: nice should be your north star. Luckily, in the digital realm, it's easy to follow too. With just a few timely clicks of your mouse, you can make nice automatic. It might not seem that important, but accepting a friend request, writing a LinkedIn recommendation, or even tweeting a Follow Friday suggestion, will help plant positive seeds that often have immediate results. Even the smallest digital gesture can serve as a virtual smile and be just the thing to brighten someone's day.

In this new era when, as Facebook founder Mark Zukerberg says, "Public is the new social norm," we shouldn't overlook the untapped potential that just one small, nice gesture can have. Although you might not suspect it, each tiny virtual connection can go a long way in shaping who we are online - and even perhaps who we can become. In reality, your positive virtual energy can, in its own way, go viral: spreading from person to person and ultimately back to you. And that means, even if you get "Unvarnished," you'll still shine.