Everything on the Internet Is Not Directed at You

The Internet has made it easy for anyone to say whatever they want to say to a worldwide audience. This is great. Some people have decided that if they don't like something that somebody else has posted, it is their right and obligation to insult and attack those people. That's not so great.

Everything on the Internet is not directed at you. If you don't like it, maybe it's just not for you. If that's the case, you don't need to respond.

A post on the Internet is usually not an invitation to debate. Most people just want to share a thought, tell a joke, vent some frustration or anger, or let their loved ones know how they are doing.

Leave those people alone. They probably aren't hurting anybody. If they aren't your friends, and they aren't asking for replies, they probably won't welcome yours.

Even if you think their post is harmful, and an unsolicited response is necessary, consider that you may not know the whole context. That post may be part of a larger conversation to which you are not a party. The poster may assume the reader has some background knowledge that you don't have. The poster may have a very different point of view from yours. The poster may just be having a bad day. Maybe you just don't get the joke.

There are some good old-fashioned rules of courtesy we should all follow when engaging others in conversation:

  • If you want to talk to somebody you don't know, politely introduce yourself first. Say something nice before you start detailing your disagreements.
  • If the other person doesn't want to talk to you, leave them alone.
  • Be kind. Don't twist the other person's words unfairly. Assume the other person is as intelligent and well-meaning as you are, and is as interested in finding the right answers as you are.
  • If you are angry, consider taking a break to cool down instead of saying something hurtful.
  • Don't demand that any person explain things or provide an education for you. If you can find the answers you want with Google, then do that instead of wasting someone's time.
  • Accept that you probably won't change anyone's mind. Once you've made your case or said your piece, you can stop.
  • If the other person has taught you something or has been helpful, thank them. If you've said something insulting or unfair, apologize.

If somebody is consistently writing things on the Internet that make your blood boil, do yourself a favor and stop following that person.

It's easy to be nasty on the Internet. Distinguish yourself by being kind. You won't always be successful, but it's always worth a try.

© 2003-2023 Kristopher Johnson