Never do I get more frustrated and begin to lose hope in humanity when I read the comments section of pretty much everything on the internet. Whether it’s a news article, a funny thing on BuzzFeed, or the comments on a Facebook status, for some reason people believe that because it’s on the internet, you can be a jackass. (Forgive the language, but seriously, that’s the best word.)*
I think the rule of thumb should be that if you wouldn’t say it to someone’s face, then you shouldn’t type it. Even if what the person has written is something that you disagree with, or that you believe is wrong or hurtful. Countering with negative reactions doesn’t breed love, it incites hate.
Here’s a revelation for you. It’s possible to disagree with someone kindly. It’s possible to say that what someone has written was mean and hurtful, kindly. If you can correct, challenge, and debate someone respectfully in person, then you can do it on the internet.
I do understand that there are times when the intent of your message was construed due to the lack of emotion in text. It’s so easy to think that someone is taking offense to your thoughts when in reality, they were just trying to respectfully disagree with your views. It just didn’t come across right.
But in this instance, it’s so important to edit what you write. Try and look at it from the other person’s point of view. If your intent is only to enter into a conversation and not to hurt or malign someone, make sure that the words you use express that. Our language has a ton of words. We also have this endangered animal called a thesaurus that will help you in this.
Many conversations that happen on the internet are super important and about relevant and, many times, over controversial topics. This can be an amazing opportunity to share your beliefs and ask questions when others believe different from you. You don’t have to agree with the other person, but you can, respectfully, tell them why you don’t and ask how they came to the beliefs that they hold.
Sometimes people post things that are simply mean or spiteful. In these instances, responding in a mean and spiteful way does nothing but cause even more meanness and spite. Instead you can do one of two things: first, ignore it. Don’t even respond to it because most likely that person just wanted attention. Second, respond kindly. Maybe that person was having a really bad day and they needed to vent and, unfortunately, use a public platform to do so. Or maybe the really meant in, but you can tell them respectfully that what they said was unkind.
Most of all, you are only responsible for yourself and the things you say. But if everyone is being self-aware, then maybe the internet would be an even nicer place where ideas are discussed and people are encouraged. I’m not saying that places like that don’t exist on the internet (because they do) but I think that even more can.