I was reading another blog today that offered some great ideas for new years resolutions for civil online conversation. I took and modified a few.
Argue substance rather than attack the person with whom you disagree. People often do this when they can’t win an argument and it happens all the time in online discussion. What usually happens, and I am guilty of this as well, is that the person attacked usually responds in kind. I try to avoid this but I have my share of anonymous critics that fall into this practice more often than not.
Don’t assume what other people think and believe rather than asking them directly ... and then state your assumption about what they think and believe as though it were gospel fact to others. Many times I have written a concern, a question or posed an argument strictly for discussion and readers, mostly anonymous ones, have taken the discussion off in a direction about my assumed politics, faith, profession and friendships that have nothing to do with reality, further distracting from the actual issue.
Don’t say things to your neighbors that you would never to say to their faces. Most of these kind of comments come from the faceless critics on this medium on both sides of any particular issue. There are some who believe that they are following the tradition of pseudonyms in Revolutionary America without ever realizing that the purpose of those actions was to smear the reputation of a political foe, not actually win an argument. There are a couple of people in the Occupy movement that I respect and agree with, some I respect and disagree with, some I don’t respect at all. The latter are the ones who have refused my invitation to talk to me face to face.
Read a blog post rather than read into it and think. This is similar to the second recommendation. Most people respond online when they are hurt or angry and never actually consider what the other side is saying in total. Or they decide to pick out a single aspect of the post ignoring the whole. Maybe you don’t like the way something is said but have you considered the whole?
Don’t play the victim. Some people online accuse someone of attacking others when they’ve attacked no one. Don’t assume people hold certain beliefs. You only know what they believe if they have told you specifically. We are all in the same boat, some are in the stern with our faces in the wind, others are in the bow with our backs to it. It’s all a matter of perspective.