If you’re online long enough whether via blogs, Facebook, forums etc..,it’s very easy to get caught up in some sort of drama. A discussion can get heated. You may start calling names even if you’d rarely do that in-person.
I’ve witnessed many of these fights/dramas over the years but so far, I’ve been able to stay neutral and not get involved. The only recent time I remember getting a little annoyed was on a personal finance blog. The main argument was that you shouldn’t complain about getting promoted if you don’t stay late. Since I don’t equate true productivity with a physical presence, I had to jump in and comment. Not the wisest decision since 95% of the people agreed with the blogger. After a little back and forth with the blogger, I can’t say I changed his mind. However, he did agree that a lot of people make up work (useless projects, overly complicated reports that no one reads, needless charts, etc..) simply to appear busy and stay late. He stood by the statement that you need to work late to get promotions but at least acknowledged that people who didn’t stay late were not simply lazy or not dedicated enough!
Anyway, I don’t know if I have any special secrets but here’s how and why I stay out of drama.
1) First, I have enough stress/drama in real life. Enough said!
2) I only tend to participate in discussions if I feel like someone is open-minded or open to real discussion. Part of me really hopes I change someone’s mind on a social or political issue. Since I have this idea in the back of my head, I also don’t tend to get angry or name-call since those methods are not persuasive.
3) I focus on the comment, not the person. This is not a good thing per se but I often read comments without paying attention to the name of the person (unless they link to their own blog). I read Grumpy Rumblings regularly but it took me a long, long time to differentiate among various commenters and I still don’t pay attention. Therefore, I don’t tend to notice if someone is on several of the same blogs or consistently post the same type of comments.
4) I give people the benefit of the doubt. Sometimes I read a comment when I’m having a stressful day. I know that my bad mood colors my reactions to certain comments. Sometimes I’m having a bad day or very busy and hit “publish” before I really had a chance to fine-tune my argument or comment. This can lead to over-simplification and misunderstanding. I just assume others do the same so if their comment is a little mean-spirited that one day, I don’t take it personally.
Overall I really enjoy online discussions about a variety of interesting topics. I don’t want to stay away from a blog or forum simply because things can get heated.