How’s Your Online Etiquette?

Do you have good internet manners? 

If you have good manners in real life, it may not be safe to assume you know how to behave online.  But should the rules here be any different?  The Daily Posters at WordPress recently wrote an article about comment moderation by the blog host, but lately I’m much more fascinated by the actual readers’ comments and what these statements say about that individual.  Online behavior generally mirrors the non-virtual segment of the world we live in: most people are polite, but there are a few that are just plain rude.  We all know it’s much harder to discern a tone of voice in the written word, so doesn’t that mean we should just try a little harder to explain our thoughts or seek to understand others’ intentions?

Maybe we lose our sense of compassion and understanding when we engage without being able to see facial expressions or connect using our other senses.

Last week STFU, Parents was all over the news that really matters.  This blog gained a huge following by making fun of crazy and self-obsessed things parents say about their children on their social media forums.  The blogger remained anonymous for several years because she felt her identity was irrelevant to the content of her site.  I say… that’s cool, her blog, her choice.  And who really cares?  But some need to speculate about why she hid, convinced she had to stay anonymous because her content was cruel.  Her shtick is snark, so why is anyone getting upset about this?  It’s not like she bait-and-switched anyone.  And besides, are we too proud and insecure that we can’t laugh at ourselves?  She earned a book deal out of it and recently revealed her identity.  Now here is what’s just plain stupid to me.  The media loves to make a story out of nothing, so they try to villainize her by taking polls, suggesting she might be evil.  They blow up false impressions about who she is, trying to pit her against all parents and kids.  It turns out that the majority of people think she’s funny, and only a few actually think she’s going to hell.  I’m intrigued by this hate that goes hand in hand with any rise in popularity.

Why do haters make personal and irrelevant attacks on others, and why do they even waste their energy hating a persona who is making a statement in public?

Why do people feel the need to bash others for expressing a thought?  Why do they choose to get offended by what is designed to be a joke?  What has happened to our collective sense of humor?  Are we all so sensitive that every thought is offensive anymore? (Think PCU– we’re not gonna protest!)  And not only that, but who are you, guy who reads a blog post that says something you don’t like, so you feel the need to leave a nasty comment insulting the author?  Or what about you, gal who sees a comment on a post that you disagree with, so you decide to start an argument– not a discussion– an argument.  Who are you?  Will you not be satisfied until you’ve done your best to try to make someone else look stupid?  Are you insecure enough to be so insulted by some stranger’s opinion that doesn’t concern you, that you can’t move on without having the last word?

Who are you?

And while I’m on it, who’s the guy who writes in to the local news anchor to tell her she is a bad role model because she is obese.  Who are you, and don’t you have anything better to do with your time?  I don’t know about you, dear readers, but when I see something I don’t like, I close the window.  If I don’t like someone’s appearance on TV, it consumes my thoughts for about a half a second.  I have never thought to take the time to write a letter about it.  I mean, do these people have lives?  I also want to know, do these people ever write positive comments or letters?

On a personal level, I’m occasionally reminded about this odd behavior (and complete waste of energy.)  Every once in a while I get another email notifying me that someone has commented on a post I wrote.  I open it in fear, hoping it’s not going to be one of those that makes my blood boil for a minute.  I’m talking about the typical comment that is most likely from a disgruntled dental patient who searched “I hate the dentist” only to stumble upon why their dentist probably hates them.  Not quite the answer these haters were hoping for.  They don’t like it when the tables get turned.  For me, it’s one thing when someone wants to share her horror dental story in a comment that is as long as my original post.  She clearly has something to say, and I’m glad she can share it on my blog.  I certainly don’t mind it if someone respectfully expresses negative opinions about dentists.  Sometimes that has proved to be a great opportunity to understand our opposing sides and maybe clear a few things up about the profession.  What I do mind is this nonsense:

“I dont disagree with your list but you come off like an asshole making a whole blog post about it. I dont see people who are waiting tables making FAR less than you complaining about the idiots they serve. Maybe try being grateful youve had the opportunities that youve had and even the opportunity to leave your job when so many are without.”

Any reasonable person could point out a million ridiculous things about this comment, but we’d be here for days.  I’ve noticed a trend with these types of comments.  They are always made by non-bloggers (or at least non-WordPress bloggers.)

I want to believe this guy just doesn’t know better, but instead he reveals a true reflection of who he is, not me.

STFU (Photo credit: Black Glenn)

Those in the WordPress community know better.  I’m proud to be a part of that community.  (Okay, that’s enough warm fuzzies and ass-kissing to the WordPress Powers That Be.)  When we blog, we put our opinions, feelings, and thoughts out there every day.  We know what it’s like to expose a piece of ourselves, and we know what it’s like to give and get support for our ramblings.  We also know what it’s like to get no support, and somehow we know how to share opinions in the form of rational discussions, not obnoxious spats.

Whether it’s because you feel safe to say whatever you want while hiding behind a screen; or without that human connection, we lose our ability to relate; or because you just happen to be a complete jackass… maybe you should consider this in the future.  The next time you decide to get so fired up that you’re ready to spew nasty comments about someone else, just remember your words say much more about you than it does anyone else.

Eh, why am I saying this stuff anyway? My community doesn’t do this stuff.  I’m just preaching to the choir now.

Image courtesy of [image creator name] /

Image courtesy of [image creator name] /


16 thoughts on “How’s Your Online Etiquette?

  1. Well, this has to be the worst, most ridiculous blog post I’ve ever r…

    Um, I mean, good job!

    I actually like when people leave angry comments (not that it happens very often) because such commenters tend to be self-righteous, humorless, or inarticulate, and it’s fun to toy with them. As William Shakesworth once said, Wit is the Soul of Blogging… or something like that.


    1. Ha! Thanks, eric. I have to admit, I kind of like it too. It’s like slowing down to look at a car accident: you really don’t want to see the horror of it, but you’re kind of curious in a sick, twisted way. And… they definitely can enhance the drama of a post. But they still hurt my feelings… for about 5 seconds. 😉

  2. Immediately after reading your post about bad online behavior, I read an insightful article by Richard Just in The Daily Beast about bad journalistic behavior…and, low and behold, it echoed many of your concerns. I mention it because he has some interesting things to say about the causes: “our new…culture of instantaneous opinion” where people are “spending more and more time immersed in the world of retorts and clever one-liners,” and “the increasing centrality of argument in [our] minute-to-minute lives” and communications. At the rate things are going, the CDC is going to have to declare this kind of verbal spewing epidemic. Maybe your readers could suggest a name for it — I kind of like Real Housewife syndrome.

    1. Thanks, Kristy. I’ll have to check it out. Scary epidemic, right? I was thinking about how our culture has and will change, and someday we will wake up to realize that we really are living in a futuristic sci-fi movie. Real Housewife is good– or how about Jersey Shore? 😉

    2. Kristy,
      I just read that article. I thought it was a really interesting interpretation of the debate. If you really paid attention to what he was writing, it was about those things you quoted and how we make decisions or judgments differently now. What I find so humorous is that if you read the comments, they really have nothing to do with that point. They are a bunch of people just leaving their own “retorts and clever one-liners” about how much they hate Obama or Romney. Makes you realize almost no one is even paying attention to what they read anyway. It’s sort of how we listen, I guess. Instead of actually listening, we’re too busy trying to think of what we’re going to say.

  3. I refer to “those people” as trolls….ugly in all aspects. Kudos to you for putting yourself out there. Kudos for having the guts to make a career change that many may not understand and then sharing that journey with others. And thanks for adding humor……..:-)

    1. I agree. We should probably find a classification for different types of trolls. There are, of course, the bloggers who use these antics to get attention to their own blogs, and then there are those that just have no internet social graces. I’m most fascinated these folks who really are awful and nasty because they don’t understand online communication. They’re worse than the blogger trolls because they are just jerks for the sake of being jerks, whereas the blogger trolls at least have selfish ulterior motives. Nah, I guess they’re all jerks. 😉 Thanks, Ingrid!

  4. In the October 17th issue of the Wall Street Journal is an article about “social rule breakers” [as in people who talk incessantly on their cell phone in what’s supposed to be a quiet area]. It’s an interesting read. I think some of us have evolved [or regressed] to more primitive sentiments of validation, even entitlement. If you have a valid point and care to disagree, then do so without being disagreeable. Time, energy, prana etc. are in short supply so I’d much rather associate with positive people and not let “bastards drag me down.”

    1. I like that: disagree without being disagreeable. It’s perfect. I’ll never understand what drives people to be so negative towards others, when they could easily find the positive in something. Oh well, luckily it’s not mine to worry about. And so… I agreeably agree that the more we focus on the positive stuff, the more we’ll find an abundance of it. Oh wait, did this whole post ruin that by focusing on these mean people out there? 😉

  5. You know, I hate to admit this… but I once wrote a letter to the editor of some small town paper, railing him about his grammatically diseased mind, infected with a pervasive dismissal of anything hinting at the possibility of any accredited education in his field. So…yeah, i”m that guy.
    And what sucks the most is that now I’ve been cursed with never being able to write a post, or even leave a comment, without typos.
    So, all that confessing simply to say that your paper’s mystery opinionair is probably getting fat.

    1. Haha! Why can I see that happening in a moment of weakness? Did you ever get a response? You’re cursed now. Not really. You always write great posts… which we haven’t seen in a while! This “curse” you describe could be good though. I’ll just pretend that sort of thing happened to all those jerks. Good to hear from you again, dink!

  6. Well, I sent the email to three different people who worked for that paper. One girl responded and said that if that was my application for an editing position, I had at least made an impression. Another girl said that she hoped I had good new year. And the guy said thanks for reading.

    I’ve not been writing because my space key stopped working properly on my old computer. I may be back now, if I can get in the swing of things.
    Hope you’ve been doing well.

    1. Haha! You must have a way… or they were just used to getting letters like that and rolled with it. You didn’t want to write a post that was just one long word? Welcome back. I’ll look forward to seeing what you have to say next. 😉

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