For ten years Caesar ruled with an iron hand. Then with a wooden foot, and finally with a piece of string.

~ Spike Milligan ~

Friendly Not Nasty Online

August 18th, 2013 ~ Est. reading time: 2 mins, 29 secs

Behind anonymity online some people forget respect.

Behind anonymity online some people forget respect.

How many times have you encountered nastiness online? It astounds me really, given there’s absolutely no need to be mean. Yet it persists and it needs to be named.

Incidentally, I’m not targeting that kind of outright obnoxiousness called trolling which some sad souls use to get a reaction. Aside from being pretty pathetic you and your friends well know how wearisome such nettling can be.

Instead, what I am noticing is quite a different phenomena and it’s all too common in comments posted on high traffic websites.

For some reason, people who would ordinarily hold back in public conversation feel free to make personal attacks about others and undermine the kind of friendliness and goodwill that websites work hard to impart.

In practice this translates as visitors posting several affirming and appreciative remarks after which someone makes cynical statements, putting down a previous contributor. You commonly find this kind of nastiness on news and current affairs sites, and websites that make any reference to politics – as if a standard of respect is optional.

More than a few people are inclined to vent their spleen in nasty ways these days and it surprises me that we even accept it. Being friendly may, at least to these people, seem unnecessary. But a healthy regard for others always strikes me as a win-win all round.

Never mind that friendship and kindness build credibility and regard, it‘s remarkable that anyone would expect respect after dumping so much nastiness on another person’s well-meaning opinions.

It is as if we have a whole subset of socially incompetent individuals who switch from liking to rage the moment they read something they disagree with. This unfriendly ignorance taints online conversations and makes it hard for people to express themselves without fear of personal attack.

So how do we deal with mercurial people like that? Well, immature types with an axe to grind generally don’t have the courage of their convictions. So they tend to hide online behind anonymity. But don’t let them. Such antisocial bullying behavior needs to be highlighted to the owners of the website. If the site managers seem indifferent, stop visiting and tell the hosts before you go.

What else? Never accept cyber-bullying lying down. Name the behavior for what it is and affirm others who are being picked on (even if you don’t agree with their particular opinions).

While you’ve got to have a tough hide when dealing with insensitive, opinionated types, it’s obvious that their bullyboy behavior only gets traction if we tolerate nasty behavior in online conversation.

Today more than ever, with so many different opinions expressed so freely, we need to speak our piece with respect. True, there will always be people making naïve and groundless comments. But their right to respect as human beings must always be factored in.

Friendship, cooperation, and patience go a long way in group discussion and wise-minded people everywhere have no appetite for nastiness or belligerence. Regardless of what is being discussed, disagreement is not a mistake. Rather, it is completely normal and deserves to be accepted within respectful standards.

Besides, cordial communication is far more likely to have a positive spinoff than yelling, nastiness, and hectoring could ever achieve.

So let’s remember that good people converse with dignity and a friendly air, anonymous or not. Though we might not change the world maintaining our own standards, we will undoubtedly be changing our part and for you and I, that speaks well enough.

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