Commenting on the Internet: Rules for Sane People

Marchange, Flickr Creative Commons

I don’t know what has ever made me think commenting on the web would be a good idea. I mean, it doesn’t matter how much you think a site might have a “community” feel, and that you might be able to engage in an actual exchange of ideas with the people there. Even if it doesn’t degenerate into outright name-calling and verbal assaults, it seems that no one is capable of an actual discussion and someone always starts becoming vaguely insulting. (Just ask Liz Lemon, she found this out when frequenting Mommy Blogs.)

This has happened to me a couple of times recently. I went to one of my favorite sites, where many of the same people get into discussions day after day, and I had the misfortune to run into bullies of sorts. The kinds of people who just come at you with hostility, not matter what you’ve said, and if you try to make your point heard they just shut down. It’s as amusing as it is frustrating.

I think it’s sad that you can’t just have an exchange of ideas, but it’s clear that this is virtually impossible. Most people can’t even do this in person, why should I be surprised when they can’t be civil on the internet? So I think normal people need help navigating the world of online discussions. It’s not going anywhere, so how do we — as rational beings — deal with the not-quite-trolls, but still-pretty-nutty-internet commenters out there?

  1. Ask yourself, is commenting on an article about bathrooms worth your time. It may not be about bathrooms, but whatever article it is you’re tempted to waste part of your life commenting on, it might be a good idea to ask if it’s worth it. Is this time well-spent? No? Then don’t bother commenting in the first place.
  2. Always be polite. If you’ve decided that it’s worth the risk to comment, remember this: It’s kind of like dealing with someone who has dumped you. If you wig out and do or say something nuts, you’ll always look like the crazy one. If you’re polite and dignified, you’ll always look better.
  3. Agree to disagree. I mean, the other person probably won’t make the same deal…but if you can acknowledge that you’re not going to agree, it will be easier to stay polite.
  4. Realize that people only hear what they want to hear. You may be thinking, “But if I just try to explain myself one last time, maybe they’ll see the light.” They won’t. They’re probably only reading half your comment — or perhaps they suffer from reading comprehension issues. Either way, trying again and again will only crush your faith in humanity. So stop.
  5. Be the first to exit the conversation. This is a place where having the last word is not a benefit. You must stop engaging in the nonsense first, otherwise it will just keep going…

What about you, my potential internet commenters? Any suggestions for maintaining your dignity and sanity when attempting to engage in an online discussion?



3 thoughts on “Commenting on the Internet: Rules for Sane People

  1. Mason Jar says:

    I have a commenter that frequently and anonymously calls me an asshole. I sort of like it and miss them when they don’t come around every day – I suppose that’s engaging the nonsense though.

    • TheresaMC says:

      Oh man, when it’s on your own site I think the rules can be totally different. At some point, the commenter becomes a contributor… like crazy people who call radio shows.

  2. cravesadventure says:

    I do not comment unless I feel I have something to add and add politely and as concise and to the point as possible. I agree to disagree and bow out as soon as it gets too amusing or frustrating. For the most part I have had good experiences when it has come to commenting. I have had a few experiences that have gone wrong, but just bow out as quickly as possible. Great Post – thanks for sharing:)

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