I decided to write about being rude online and the damage it can cause. I recently made the grave mistake of reading the comments on my posts. I used to read these regularly but after one too many nasty comments, I decided to stop. Either I stopped reading or I stopped writing, so I went for the former. After deciding to take another look, I found more unpleasant comments and it made me angry (and a bit upset). On the scale of nasty, I'm talking a level one - there is SO much worse out there, but it gave me a glimpse of how it feels. So that's why I've written this: things you should think about before being rude online:
1. It HURTS
The most important reason why you should think before being rude online and really, the main reason why you should think before you do anything is that you are hurting someone else. You'll spend a couple of minutes typing that cruel comment but once you've pressed 'enter', your action doesn't stop. That person will read it, and it hurt them. That hurt might carry on for an hour, a day, a week. Do you want that on your conscience? Because you're responsible, whether you've already stopped thinking about it or not.
Making someone hurt for a little while is one thing (and it's bad enough), but the consequences of trolling can be a lot worse than that. We've all read the stories, we all know what can happen. I know that these cases are often the exception but do you want to take that chance?
The problem with being nasty online is that it's so much easier than doing it in person. It's much harder to be cruel to someone, and to continue being cruel, when you can see their face crumble, when you can see that they're struggling not to cry and everything you're saying makes them shrink into themselves a little bit more. It's much easier to do something when you don't think you're ever going to see the effects of it.
4. Just like You
Because of the disconnect, we don't always see the person on the other end of a computer as a person. That person has as many thoughts and feelings and stuff going on in their lives as you do, and that's kind of amazing when you think about it like that; so many little infinities that exist in each of us. If we thought like that more often, we might not do as many bad things.
What stopped me getting really annoyed at some of the comments was that most of them were WRONG. Not wrong in a different opinion kind of way, but actually incorrect. Either their facts were wrong or something was meant to be funny and they hadn't got it, or they'd actually ending up proving my point by not getting it in the first place. I see that happen on so many articles and tweets. At least Google it before you say something offensive - or the only one that'll end up looking ignorant is you.
6. No One is Trying to Offend You
I also find that we tend to take things personally when they aren't. I'm sure there aren't many writers or politicians or anyone who shares their views publicly who intentionally set out to offend you. You might not agree with those views but they don't exist to personally pee you off - so don't retaliate with a personal attack.
7. How Would You Feel?
If you received a nasty message or someone wrote something unkind about you and shared it for all the world to see, how would you feel? I don't think there are many people who could just brush it off without feeling anything. It goes back to that age-old saying - treat others as you want to be treated. If you wouldn't like it, don't do it to someone else.
Some of the comments I've read online - not directed at me, but from twitter etc - have made me feel physically sick. And I don't doubt that at least some of the people making those comments are actually perfectly regular and not so psychotic in real life. Think about what you write before you send it. Think about who you could hurt. Has anyone here been the target of online abuse?