Last week I asked you about online rudeness -- whether you had encountered it and whether you thought people tend to interact differently online as opposed to face to face. Given that I posed this question to a group of bloggers, I received a great deal of informed opinion.
Several people told stories of online bickering and nasty comments. In some cases these resulted in people closing blogs or backing away from specific online friendships. We all know, though, that bickering and nastiness can also happen with our "real life" friends and family. Your comments didn't make it clear whether this happens more frequently online, only that it does occur and can sometimes be an issue.
The discussion pointed out that what constitutes rudeness can be a matter of opinion, and those of us who are so brave as to bare our souls in public should be prepared for whatever reaction comes back, be it positive or negative. That said, there was a general consensus that some online types seem to habitually attack others in their posts and comments, presumably in an attempt to get a reaction. This is apparently common enough that there is a term for this type of visitor: trolls. I liked the suggestion for handling this situation offered by Robin, who maintains a blog called R's Musings. Robin wrote:
Before I started my blog, I got into some negative commenting on a friend's blog with an 'anonymous' person, defending my friend, and then myself. The key, to me, is in being self-reflective. Why did I need to defend myself, or my friend to this person? I decided that not everyone is going to like me, and I don't need to defend my position. Commenting on his negative comments was just empowering him negatively, so I stopped commenting on those particular ones. Then I decided to start my own blog. I think it's very important to BE the example of what you're trying to promote. This 'anonymous' person now comments on my blog, and I find his comments becoming more and more thoughtful as I address ONLY his thoughtful comments. Something I learned in the STEP parenting program... ignore the bad behavior, and reward the good.
The more I thought about this, the more it reminded me of the challenges faced by public personalities like politicians and celebrities. Imagine the number of criticisms leveled daily at people like President Bush or Dr. Phil. When large numbers of people know about you, then by sheer statistics some percentage of them will be unhappy, argumentative or will simply disagree with your opinions. By creating a public website, perhaps we bloggers get a small taste of what more public figures have to withstand. Come to think of it, that would make a great topic for a future post.
Thanks again, everyone, for all your input.