The Secret to Leaving Comments Online – Free Ebook

Comment sections online should be the beautiful
public squares of our democracies: places

we navigate to for frank and thoughtful exchanges
of ideas; places where we learn to understand

each other’s point of view and where serious
discussions evolve over time. But, of course,

they are havens of the grossest abuse, verbal
violence and cruelty. It’s understandable

if we sometimes conclude, after time reading
comments, that humanity has lost its way.

But there’s another explanation: The source
of dismissive and rude remarks and frustrating

discussions isn’t bad people: it’s that
commenting isn’t something we’re naturally

or automatically very good at. It is, however,
a learnable skill. In fact, everyone online

is almost always trying to do something important,
but just going about it in a hugely unfortunate

way. So for example: We want to communicate
an urgent, and sometimes well-founded belief

that another person is mistaken So what we
too quickly say is: You are a fucking idiot

who can jerk off with my shit. But what we
could learn to say, given that no one ever

learns anything under conditions of humiliation,
is a more effective: I wonder if you might

have missed something that feels important
from where I am positioned… We want to stand

up for clarity and common sense by admitting
that we didn’t understand something another

person said And so we say: Wtf motherfucker
But it could be a revolutionary move, with

huge influence on the way other people start
to think one could and should behave online,

to say: I found it at points a little hard
to follow your train of thought, yet deeply

respect your underlying intentions… We want
to convey immense disappointment So we say:

I used to like what you do; but now I think
you’re a phoney and a total fraud. Unsubbed,

wanker. But we could say: I’m puzzled because
I generally very much admire you and I don’t

entirely see the point of what you seem to
be doing. It would be lovely if you could

perhaps explain things from your no doubt
very legitimate perspective. Sometimes we

simply want to exorcise the humiliation that
a cold and indifferent world has doled out

to us So, at our keyboard in the middle of
the night, with the odd freight train whistling

in the darkness outside, we say: Suck it up
bitches; bunch of fucking wankers spewing

bullshit from your own anuses… When what
we could learn to say, from our isolated bedrooms,

is: I sometimes feel so sad and alone… Let’s
remember that no one is ever brutal or cruel

online by their ultimate free choice. They
are so because they are hurt, damaged, alone

and afraid – and because no one has been
kind or good to them for a long time. Behind

every online outburst, there’s always a
complex, painful backstory (which we will

mostly never know but which we can be sure
is there) which has made it impossible for

the commenter to feel they can be realistic,
reasonable or civil. People get rude too,

because – in their very isolation and powerlessness
– it is impossible for them to believe that

others out there could be vulnerable to their
insults. Their rudeness is grounded on a disbelief

that strangers could take them seriously and
might be tipped over into inner collapse,

despair and self-hatred because of them. Such
is their background feeling of impotence,

the troll has forgotten their own power. After
spending a while in the comments sections,

it can be easy to to form the belief that
humans have grown into monsters. The good

news is that even though comments claim to
reflect how the world is, they in fact represent

only the fringe views of a tiny percentage.
They induct us to forget the vast invisible

army of moderate, reasonable, kind not terribly
opinionated individuals who are just standing

by in silence, as appalled as we are. The
world is much saner than it appears. The real

achievement would be to build an online world
every bit as kind, patient and good as most

of us are in our real lives at every moment
of every day.

Do you need a detox from your devices? Our Phone Detox is designed to help give you a well deserved break from your phone.

Leave a Reply