Nathan Thompson explores the social graces and gremlins of commenting online.
In my opinion, making and receiving comments on blog posts should be treated in a similar way to how you would act with someone face to face. Whether you are committed to a spiritual path, or you simply wish to be an ethical person online, it’s important to consider the possible impact of any comments you leave online.
Although it’s harder to see and feel, what we say online can have just as much impact – positive or negative – as anything said in person. And because of the lack of non-verbal cues, it’s probably even more important to choose our words carefully while interacting with others online.
What I have witnessed online is that commenting on blog posts brings out the best and worst in us. When people are at their best, you can see ripple effects that spread across the world. A well-timed supportive comment can mean all the difference to someone who is struggling and feeling isolated. A clear declaration of the truth in the middle of an embattled debate can shift the entire conversation. And sometimes, something someone says “goes viral,” spreading from blog to blog, across Facebook, Twitter, and other social networking sites, and positively impacting the views of hundreds and thousands of people.
And unfortunately, the same thing goes for comments on the worst end of the spectrum. A single personalized attack on a writer can shift an entire discussion in that direction. Lies can and do spread online, sometimes at an alarmingly fast rate. And the internet is littered with the wreckage of angry, hate-fueled arguments that sometimes have spread into the flesh and blood world with terrible consequences.
One of the challenges I have found is working to find the balance between honesty, compassion, and kindness. Sometimes, I’m responding to a piece of writing where I really don’t care for the view being expressed. Occasionally, it might even be to someone I’m not terribly fond of. And sometimes, I’m just not in the best mood. All of this can make for troubled waters when it comes to making comments online.
So, here are a few questions to consider before making a comment:
1. Are you just venting? Sometimes, I find myself wanting to tee off on some poorly written article or obnoxious political opinion piece, but quickly realize I have nothing of value to say.
2. Do you actually understand what’s being said? It’s amazing how often people seem to misread things online and then make comments based on their misreading. Which leads to number three…
3. Have you slowed down enough to digest what you’ve read? The speed of the internet and our lives in general these days lends itself nicely to rapid-fire comments that are, at best, superficial.
4. Are you just wanting to see yourself in writing? This one is tricky, but I do think that sometimes people just leave comments to be seen. The content may be meaningless or it might even have some relevance, but the true impulse of the person commenting is simply to be part of the commenting crowd.
What are your thoughts about making comments online? Have you had any experiences that made you change how you make comments on the internet?