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? Continue reading