How To Participate In Online Discussions Without Ruining Your Day

Everyday, people on the Internet participate in online discussions that can become very heated. Sometimes, these discussions can aggravate a person so much that it ruins their day.

One of my personal complaints about the way people engage in online discussions is that they often start bringing up points that have zero to do with the items discussed. I’ve written up posts on Facebook about something as trite as a comparison between Kim Kardashian and Marilyn Monroe, and suddenly two or three male friends were writing several paragraphs, going on and on about why they don’t understand how someone like Kim can be famous, etc. I had zero time or patience to even read their opinions. I could tell from the first sentence in each one that their comments had nothing to do with what I was saying.

Sometimes people just like to hear themselves talk and they like to broadcast their opinions in the hopes that someone will agree. However, if they are not contributing to a growing and evolving idea, there is very little to gain from their words.

For that reason, I try to always comment on something by strictly responding to what was posted and not what I THINK was posted.

There’s a huge difference between what someone says and what you think they are trying to say. As a reader who intends to comment on a piece, you should take into consideration what the writer has said and determine whether it was fact, satire, sarcasm, etc. Especially when it comes to politics, a writer is either being factual or is trying to shed comedic light on a very painful and difficult problem. Once you’ve sorted out what tone the author is using, you will have an angle for creating your response.

Because I look at this from an academic standpoint, I firmly believe that when engaging in an online forum or comments section, you have to choose whether you are going to add on to what the author has said or if you just want to provide your response to the piece. Either way, you are responsible for demonstrating that you comprehended the message and that you are responding directly to that and not just showcasing your own set of beliefs which would likely best be shared in a separate article of your own.

One thing I find most aggravating as a writer is reading comments that evolve into written attacks or misdirected examples of anger. Sometimes a commenter gets so wound up that they completely lose sight of what the writer was trying to share. This makes it difficult for the writer of the piece to appropriately respond to the person, especially if they insist on their stance and stray from the topic. As you can see in Julia’s piece on Savanna Dietrich, she had to respond with great grace and patience to a person in the comments section who seemed to no longer be contributing to the topic being discussed.

If you are questioning what the writer was trying to say, you can try to create a response that starts with, “In this piece, it sounds like you are trying to say that…” Truth is, you can’t outright claim to know exactly what the person was saying unless they were merely stating facts. Because, after all, who can argue with facts? If that writer was merely being satirical, you might not want to get too worked up about what they are saying. You can, however, engage in a discussion that challenges them intellectually.

Naturally, of course, you will read a piece that is just so outright and blatantly detrimental to our growth as a society that you can’t help but stand up for basic human decency, and even then you are faced with the challenge of what kind of tone you will take when responding and whether you are ready to take some of the heat as well.

Still, the best way to not let it ruin your day is to let it sit right where you leave it. What that means is that if you read something online that got you so worked up and angry, you owe it to yourself to take a deep breathe and think about the good that can come of your ability to speak up for yourself as well as your ability to not carry the momentary hostility with you throughout the day. The one positive spin on that moment is bringing yourself to realize that you are exercising in free speech and your ability to articulate that which lies in your heart.

Having the power to share knowledge with others requires some amount of wisdom. When it comes to commenting on articles, forums, and other Internet discussions, you mainly have to carry with you the ability to let those heavy feelings go once you turn off your computer.

Featured Image via Shuttershock.

  • M.C. Silver

    This was an extremely thoughtful piece! I agree that it can be frustrating to look at the comment section on any website and find that people have spun off in lots of different directions. For this reason, I sometimes like it when the newest comments are posted at the top instead of the bottom, but then it’s possible to lose track of what other people said that was similar (which is another pet peeve of mine when people clearly have not read the other comments and post the exact same thing without an acknowledgement to the others). Definitely all things to keep in mind, so thanks!

  • Katy Littlejohn

    “Having the power to share knowledge with others requires some amount of wisdom”
    Right on!

  • Sarah Reamon

    I appreciate that you took the time to write on this issue! The importance of taking the time to understand what an author is really saying (and what tone they are saying it with) would solve so many thread arguments/debates. “Posting etiquette” is a somewhat new thing and it is great to hear it discussed from the perspective of a writer. There will probably always be those people who want to stir up dissension or insert their own agenda everywhere but hopefully the rest of us can learn how to react (or not react) to those postings and how to contribute to the discussion in a positive, thoughtful and relevant way.

    • Marianna Tabares

      Thank you! Share this with others and spread the word! Well actually, spread the peace. I think we often get so worked up over innocuous things and our days could be so much smoother if we knew what to do with the new pieces of modern knowledge we acquire. There are countless discussions happening right now that involve the rights of others and respect for the human condition, and if we all continue to butt heads, I don’t see how we will learn to progress toward a better future.

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