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How to Disagree on the Internet

Life As Mom’s comment policy.

Screen shot 2011 03 07 at 4.40.24 PM How to Disagree on the Internet

This post has been on my heart for several weeks. While my readers, even when they think I’m nuts, are polite and disagree in love on this site, I frequently hear from bloggers who have been hurt by comments or emails from readers. Often times it isn’t what was said, but rather how it was said. When writing we don’t have the benefit of body language or inflection in our voice to get the point across. Sometimes what was meant to be funny comes across as rude when typed instead of spoken.

I believe well meaning people are often misunderstood and can become involved in heated arguments because of a few words or capital letters in a comment or Facebook post.

So what happens when you read something on the internet that you don’t agree with? Everyone has a right to their opinion, but there is a way to share it with grace. Often times we get caught up in sharing “truth’ and forget that giving truth with grace goes a long way towards keeping the discussion friendly and respectful. And Bloggers- you can turn a negative comment into a positive experience (that post coming later this week).

There is nothing wrong with disagreeing with someone, but how you do it can make the difference between open dialogue and a nasty argument. While these suggestions are written with the internet in mind, many of them apply to real life situations too.

Examine Your Motivation for Commenting

Before you leave a comment that is critical determine your motivation for commenting. Are you passionate about the topic? Are you a subject matter expert? Do you have experience in this area, or are you just venting/letting off steam about a particular subject a blogger is writing about? If you want to vent it is better to do it on your own blog, FB page, or Twitter account. Venting on someone else’s space isn’t very polite and usually doesn’t create a productive debate. If your comment can contribute to the discussion in a productive way (and I think disagreeing can be productive) then speak your mind, respectfully.

Do Unto Others

Before you leave a comment, send an email, or comment on Facebook consider how you would feel if you received a similar comment. Would it encourage you to rethink your views, change your mind, or just hurt your feelings? When disagreeing think of how you would like to receive feedback and let that be your guide.

Share Your Feedback Respectfully in the Comment Section

This is probably the easiest way to share feedback. Most websites allow for comments and leaving one only takes a few minutes. When leaving a comment, remember that the person’s blog is their home on the internet. Be respectful. If you disagree with someone do it in a kind way. Share why you disagree and remember to try to leave some positive feedback too. If the blog you are reading is so off target that you can’t find anything nice to say, maybe it is time to stop reading that blog.

Also remember that things like excessive punctuation and capitals signifies strong emotion or even anger. Refraining from using these in the critical comments goes a long way.

Send an Email

If you feel very strongly about a topic consider sending an email rather than posting in the comment section. Often leaving a critical comment will incite the blogger’s friends to their defense and a large internet slug fest will begin. What’s the point? While some blogs encourage this type of debate, I see this happen far too often on blogs that try to encourage, build up, and help others. A comment war benefits no one.

An email is a good way to privately confront someone if you feel strongly about a topic. Perhaps the blogger will reconsider their post and even edit it if they have erred. The chances of this happening when corresponding via email are much greater than if you leave a public comment.

Sleep On It

It’s not a good idea to leave a comment or send an email when you are fired up about something. Write the comment or email, save it and sleep on it. If in the morning you still feel strongly about the topic, submit it. You might find that how you feel in the heat of the moment is much different than how you feel when you’ve had a chance to think about it for a few hours.

Offer a Positive Alternative

There might be instances when someone posts something that does not work for you. Rather than commenting that their idea is the worst idea ever, share that it didn’t work for your family, but something else did. No blogger thinks their ideas work for everyone, and many enjoy hearing reader suggestions in the comments.

Keep Quiet

You probably wouldn’t walk into a neighbor’s house and tell them you hated their carpet and curtains, so don’t leave a comment with similar sentiments, unless they are asking for feedback. If you don’t like the color choice or design of someone’s site, keep it to yourself or stop reading.

Walk Away

There are millions of blogs to chose from, so if you always find yourself disagreeing with the author stop reading it. It doesn’t benefit you and wastes your time if you are just reading a blog so you can disagree.

Long Time Readers Earn the Right to Disagree (because they’re family)

If you are a frequent reader and positive commenter on a blog, a critical comment will probably not offend the blog author. Personally, I consider my long time reader/ commenters like family and find their comments helpful even when they disagree. This is because they have earned the right to disagree because we have a relationship (albiet a virtual one). Just like in real life, you have the freedom to disagree with your friends but you probably wouldn’t get into a disagreement with someone standing in line at the grocery store.

You Are Not Anonymous

I often think people are more disrespectful on the internet because they feel there is a level of anonymity. Let me tell you, there isn’t. If someone wants to figure out where you live, work, your phone number, children’s school, and mother’s maiden name- they can. All they need is your IP address and email, which is listed on any comment you leave on the internet. In some states there are now laws against internet bullying and you can actually be sued for threatening comments. Obviously, this isn’t something that applies to my readers, but it is a good reminder not to get caught up in a comment war. It isn’t worth it.

If you wouldn’t share it over coffee to a friend it probably shouldn’t be shared over the internet either.


This post may contain a link to an affiliate. See my disclosure policy for more information.

Comments

  1. patti says:

    so, so very true!! and the things that you (and the person you’re disagreeing with) feel passionate about are things that no amount of discussion will cause you (or them) to change your mind…and I so agree about simply discontinuing reading blogs that make your blood boil (unless that’s what you’re looking for!!)…some people really enjoy starting heated discusssions…if you don’t want any part of that, then don’t leave comments…or don’t read those blogs. good post!

  2. Kathryn says:

    Thank You, Thank You, Thank You!!!! This is a much needed post! I have said that many times that while you may disagree with something in my post, it is my blog and my own personal opinion so if you have something to say keep that in mind. Everyone is different and will have different thoughts and opinions, that does not make you better than someone else, just different. Thank you so much for writing this!

  3. Kristy says:

    I don’t often comment on others’ blogs, but I enjoy reading them for encouragement! I try to follow the Golden Rule, especially while on the internet. The inflections we use when we would say the words doesn’t always come through when reading the same words, causing a miscommunication. The problem I seem to have is with the use of my personal blog or FB page. When I vent, or just explain why I had a bad experience, I leave things anonymous, but yet I still get backlash and have been told not to post negative things on them. Isn’t this MY personal space where I am “allowed” to post what I feel led to? Or are these considered public areas where a negative item would be considered gossip?

  4. I have a strange opposite problem. I rarely get comments. It’s so odd – I have a moderately large number of readers but it’s like pulling teeth to get any of them to say anything. I’d almost welcome some controversial comments just to get some interaction going.

    Hallee

  5. Sorry for the double post – I got a 404 error the first time.

    Hallee

  6. Thank you so much for a great post. I see this really benefiting bloggers (and hopefully readers, too). We can all learn so much from each other through healthy discussion (and disagreements). So much energy and stress is wasted when online discussions erupt into comment wars.

  7. Elizabeth L. says:

    Great post. I was having a discussion about comments and commenters with some online friends the other day because one had been hurt by a comment in response to her comment where she respectful disagreed with the blogger.

    I rarely leave comments anymore for fear of the same thing happening to me. I’m going to share this post with as many people as I can in hopes that everyone will read it and we can stop the comment wars and share our opinions calmly and politely.

  8. Bravo! My sentiments exactly! It’s been a long time since I received a really nasty comment, but I try to steer clear of a comment war at all costs. I know another person in real life that addressed a negative comment in an entire blog post. It got really nasty! No matter how much I encouraged her to just hit delete and move on, she couldn’t let it go. Sometimes, it just isn’t worth it to “go there” with a negative comment.

  9. Beth says:

    I’m not a blogger and rarely comment on blogs. HOWEVER, I think if everyone used your rules in ALL ASPECTS OF LIFE (in addition to commenting on blogs) alot fewer feelings would get hurt and alot fewer aploogies would be needed. Great post.

  10. Really great post! Thanks!!

  11. Kayren says:

    I tend to be a lurker and if I leave comments they are only positive ones. Once I even left a positive comment and someone found something negative to pull out of it.

    I was reading some comments on another blogger’s post the other day. A few of the comments would be considered negative, but they were put in a considerate way, and the commenters even made sure to say that it was obvious that the blogger loved their child very much. (It was in regards to the child having an excess of things, like clothing and toys, etc., and the parent was asking for some specific suggestions.) Other commenters started bashing them and talking about how hateful and negative they were, but really, they were not at all. Their words were very carefully chosen and they also made sure to put something positive in there. It just all reinforced my desire to stay a lurker and not leave a comment, especially if it could be construed as controversial. Call me a wimp if you want!

    • TheHappyHousewife says:

      Kayren,
      I’m sorry that a few rude people have discouraged you from participating in discussions. I think this happens more frequently than we all realize, which is why I felt the need to write about it. I honestly believe most people are trying to be helpful and want to contribute, but a few bad apples can spoil the whole barrel. Sad. :(

  12. Rebecca says:

    Great topic! People are rude in general!! Road rage, parking lot rage, nasty comments in long lines, nasty looks when you are simply walking in a store. My mom and I were simply crossing a street last week and we weren’t crossing fast enough for them and someone laid on the horn (we were walking briskly but not running). My mom is in her 60s and looks fantastic but she still doesn’t look like a teenager, you know? RUDE! There is no respect for elders, no respect for parents, no respect for authority. We live in an age of political correctness but no common respect or courtesy. The internet rages with nasty comments and abuse. I don’t blog but I follow several blogs…homeschool, cooking, mom stuff…and I am glad that it’s very rare to see any negativity on the blogs I read. It’s nice to be nice, lol. Iron sharpeneth iron….if I find kindness, it really makes me want to be kinder. Thanks again.

  13. Ann Washburn says:

    For myself, I try to always add “disclaimers”, such as, “this is only my view, and I am not trying to say that others should also hold that same view”, stressing that I am only one person, and I am not in any way intending to sound like I am lecturing, or trying to say that my way is the only way.

    And something that I think is essential that I also thing many don’t do–I read through my post SLOWLY before hitting the “post comment” button! I read with a critical eye, asking myself if I see anything not following my disclaimer policy, or if my words in general come across the wrong way.

  14. Tori says:

    I don’t have problems with comments on my blog (because I don’t get many), but I have experienced some on Facebook… and one thing I remind myself at all times when encountering the rudeness of unkindness of others is that it is MY choice how I react to that which is put before me. I don’t have to be offended. Being offended if my choice. I can, perhaps with some difficulty but worthwhile effort, refuse to feel offended, and, instead, try to find something helpful and/or good about the comment… OR just ignore it altogether. What someone else puts out there is beyond my control, but how I respond/react is TOTALLY mine.

  15. Melinda says:

    Thank you so much for this post! It could not have come at a more perfect time!

  16. Angeline says:

    Love, love, love this post! Those of us on ‘the outside’ (passionate Mohters and Homemakers) forget that other people have feelings, thanks for the reminder!

  17. Katie says:

    Loved this post & it could not have come at a better time. Thank you so much for the words of wisdom! I just had a bad experience & had to remove someone from my list of readers. It was sad but for the best as far as my sanity & my other friends/readers.

  18. Nell says:

    Toni, you are a BLESSING! I so admire your ability to word things diplomatically, yet drive a nail to the heart of the issue. Thank you so much for this post and for your carefully-worded suggestions and just good ole’ common sense. I’ll say it again, you are a BLESSING! :)

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