Thinking Before You Comment

I know I’m not the first, but a recent experience taught me a valuable lesson:

*_There is no “undo” button when posting a comment to someone else’s weblog_*.

Stumbling upon a post offering what I thought was a bad piece of advice, I felt compelled to inflict my personal opinion on the site owner. While in a particularly bad mood, I posted a rebuttal through the host’s commenting system. The comment was impersonal, terse, and quite rude. The moment I pressed the “post” button, that little voice inside my head, whispered, “What a jerk!” (I’m not entirely sure that’s what the little voice said… I was trying to ignore it).

While checking my referrer logs, I noticed 2 visits from the site where I posted the comment. The site owner added two comments to the post, the first discounting my comment, and the second blasting my site for some apparent design flaws, and a violation of my own original “advice”. The tone of the comments was deservedly not flattering. I attempted to apologize, but found myself banned from the system (a first).

I officially regret posting the original comment, not because the post’s author attacked me, but because the comment’s tone and demeanor was out of character for me. The comment was not representative of who I am (I’d like to think), or how I wish to treat people.

Here’s what I learned:

* The Internet provides a level of anonymity, even when authoring a post or comment using your real name (which I always do). This impersonal communication medium can remove inhibitions, and emotional restraints that *_should_* prevent you from writing (saying) things you would not normally say to someone in person… especially someone you just met.

* Opinions are just that, opinions. And you know what they say about opinions… right? The exchange of ideas and opinions is relevant and productive. The Internet, and especially weblogs, are designed to foster community. Discussion does not have to be personal or inflammatory, even when expressing fact in the face of falsehood or error. Discussion can and should be kept civil and tactful.

* Check your bad mood at the door. Just because you are having a bad day, doesn’ t give you the right to ruin someone else’s. Consider how your feelings might affect what you are about to post in response to someone’s thought or ideas. Good advice for the real world too.

* _*Weblogs are not faceless, emotionless, unfeeling nodes in the cloud*_. Behind each weblog is a real, emotion rich, feeling person. The author often has poured out heart and soul into each post, carefully crafting and documenting a record of their own experiences, personal thoughts and feelings, or what they believe to be good advice. Be kind, be tactful, practice the Golden Rule. Don’t be a troll, especially when that is not your intention.

*To the author of that original post*: If by some chance you read this, please accept my sincere apology. If my stupidity and lack of restraint hurt your feelings, I am sorry; please forgive me.

To everyone else, remember:

*_There is no “undo” button when posting a comment to someone else’s weblog_*.

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