I really like the internet, it’s a great source for information and entertainment. It is a technology that is new enough and changes often enough that culture has not established a consistently polite and decent way to use it-or maybe we just don’t care.
Let’s start with the deepest source of suspect social media reactions-taking offense. First off, if you want to avoid being offended by someone with a different perspective than you, there is a powerful tool that is perfect for you. It is called the scroll button. I see some things that I don’t agree with, but I try to focus my attention on the physical world and scroll past any virtual stuff that detracts my attention from that focus. A second part to this is finding offense in a post where none is intended. There are some people who will drill-down and use their powers of imagination to take any post as a personal offense when it was meant for anything but that reaction. There is not much you can do to make them feel better as anything you say will always be received in the most selfish way.
Another thing I see on the internet is self-righteous indignation; the even-uglier cousin to being constantly offended. Self-righteous indignation is that superior feeling that you know better than all other residents of the internet. These people usually have a knack for taking advantage of the multiple tools of mob rule to attack those who may not share their same opinions. The also love to wrongly characterize others and their actions without asking questions or giving them the benefit of a doubt.
Social media warriors do not seem as prolific to me as they once were. I think the more we understand the internet, and ourselves, the more we realize making someone feel small does not make us larger. A sub-set of this group would be the grammar snobs. I keep my reactions to poor grammar to myself. I too may use a comma improperly however someone edits it out before you read it. These are the same folks who “fact-check” the posts of others using one of their “fact-checking” web sites. My suggestion here is to fact-check your fact-checking website. Many of these sites are pretty ideological and their version of the “fact” may not always be as objective as they would like you to believe.
Read the post, not just the headline. If you have gotten this far in the column then you don’t need this advice. If you quit after the headline, you will never read it. It is a conundrum.
Finally, be a little decent in your replies. I have seen a few posts where people agree to disagree and leave it at that. Politics is a poor reason to be friends or enemies however name-calling or condescending posts to those who don’t share your opinion can drive a wedge between friends. Remember, the person you are calling names on the internet might have pulled you out of a snowbank years ago. They may even want to invite you to a wedding or anniversary in the future. Friends are way more important than feeling like you won an argument-there’s no comparison between the two.
Use the internet but use it kindly. Remember, the world you create on the internet is shared by the same people who share your physical world.