If you have ever been involved in opinion sharing online, be it in a forum, or the comments section or even on a social networking site, I’m sure you would have experienced first-hand people who pick fights. Most of the time, it seems like they have nothing better to do than to ruin your day with thoughtless comments, name-calling and provocations of the juvenile kind. Ever wonder why they treat you like that, and more importantly what to do when you come face-to-face (so to speak) with one?
Here’s what we’re here to help you figure out.
Cyber-heckling: Welcoming You to the Web
First of all, whenever you are writing on the Web, bear in mind that you will sooner or later meet with people who simply do not agree with your opinions. Wherever possible, always agree to disagree, and remember that it is not your job to ‘educate’ people. You do have the social responsibility to spread awareness about new things, and provide channels for your readers to educate themselves. But that’s about it. Don’t force your opinions or judgements onto others, because that’s how fights get started in the first place.
Why do Some People Act Like Asses Online?
The truth of the matter is, these ill-tempered people exist online and off, but they are bolder when they are shielded behind a computer screen, i.e. anonymity. Being anonymous encourages boldness (not bravery – there is a difference), which in turn diminishes a person’s accountability for their actions.
(Image source: ComicalConcept)
Simply put, when you are hiding behind a fake name, you don’t act like your normal self. You may use profanity more willingly or join in with the community’s staple jokes, calling people names which you would otherwise not do in school, at a restaurant or at work. This behavioural change is separated by a very fine line. It’s so fine that you can toggle this behaviour on and off like a light switch.
Two faces of a coin
When posting in a familiar community where our comments are tethered to our real identity, it’s possible that we would be more polite, more cautious with our comments and more encouraging. That’s our neutral, politically correct mode. But when there is no one to police how we phrase our sentences, we have the tendency to be more upfront and confrontational much like when we are posting in large communities like in Youtube or in popular blog sites. With a username like Ninja_twinkletoes, you may be more inclined to release the reins a bit and let the four-lettered words fly.
You can say that it’s something like how we have a personality switch when we drive. Just to illustrate my point (and my love for Disney) here is a cartoon made more than 60 years ago called Motor mania, depicting a similar personality switch that happens when one gets behind the wheel.
So what do I do when I am cornered?
With most cyber-hecklers, they are just there for the attention. If you have one of these, do not give them the time of the day. By responding, you are giving them the attention they are seeking and encouraging them to continue acting like an ass at your expense. Just ignore his actions and responses even if he starts name-calling. You can easily spend your time on better things to do anyways.
If you feel like you are going to blow your top there and then, go do something else first and cool down. Give it a couple of days for the heat to dissipate and if the guy doesn’t come back for more, be gracious enough to leave it at that. It is easier to walk away from a confrontation on the Web than it is in the real world.
In the (rarer) occasion where the commenter has something up his sleeves, a hidden agenda, or just a grudge against you, what do you do? Well, you can join in with the screaming match and CAPS-LOCK the guy to a virtual death, or be the bigger person. Try to understand why the person said those hurtful things in the first place before falling into the trap of confronting him.
(Image source: Filehurricane)
At times, the whole hullabaloo could have risen from a simple misunderstanding. The problem with written communication is that we don’t get to use the tone of our voices to relay our message. Things can be taken out of context very easily, which is why it is very important to write with your audience in mind; be sensitive to how they may view and perceive your words. Also equally important, as the reader, give the writer the benefit of the doubt when their sentences can go either way.
We are all usually nice people offline. There’s no reason to be mean, online.
Bigotry – a stubborn and complete intolerance of any creed, belief, or opinion that differs from one’s own (dictionary.com) – is big on the Internet because of one simple truth. We may have the infrastructure to communicate with one another halfway across the world but society, at large, may not have the maturity to handle all our cultural differences on a global scale as yet.
Thus, the next time, you want to post a comment, put some thought into it and be sure to pick the right words to deliver your sentiments, rather than resort to heckler-style commenting.