Let's 'Be Nice on the Internet' This Week

Real Simple Magazine is fighting back against rudeness on the Internet for one week, how can you join in?

One enduring piece of advice on the Internet is "don't feed the trolls." Going one step further, the folks at Real Simple have declared Jan. 9 to 13 "Be Nice on the Internet Week," with slogans such as "Down with rudeness on the Web! Bring back politeness!"

Patch communities are largely full of thoughtful, welcoming readers who are engaged in their communities. And here at JP Patch, we have a requiring real names and encouraging full first and last names. Speaking as the editor of the site, I'm pround of the respectful forum we're building here.

However, you may visit sites that aren't like Patch.

In Internet lingo, a troll is someone who posts inflammatory comments intended to provoke other members of an Internet community, according to Wikipedia. You may run into them, or other people trying to get under your skin, while exploring the wild, wild Web. When someone is getting on your nerves, it's harder to be nice to people, so here are a few tips for ensuring that you remain civil, and for dealing with those who may choose not to:

  • Don't Feed the Trolls – Trolls appear for a number of reasons, they may have no other outlet for an issue, or they may simply be bored. The best way to deal with them is to ignore their comments. If you get locked into an argument with them, find ways to rob them of their steam: agree with their valid point, or ask for more information. 
  • Remember A Person is Behind That Screen Name – Whether they're agreeing with you, trolling you, or ignoring you, there is a person at the keyboard. 
  • Re-read the Terms of Service – When you sign up for a website, it often asks you to agree to terms of use or service--a lengthy legal-ese document that describes acceptable behavior on the website (which no one reads anyway). It may be useful to have that information for yourself, or for when you need to remind another user what the rules are.
  • Read Before you Post – Before you send anything out into the internet--as a comment, e-mail or social networking post--take a second to re-read it, ideally aloud. It gives you a chance to hear what you're saying, and you may realize that it doesn't quite catch the tone you were aiming for.
  • Remember There is No Font for Sarcasm – So, when you are being sarcastic, other readers who don't know you may not realize it. Without that context, sarcasm often comes across as unnecessarily mean. The same can apply to other tones of writing voice. 
  • Speak Up – The Internet allows people to connect and exchange ideas with millions, and commenting is the simplest way to get involved. Be confident, and let us know how you feel. You may be saying it for someone else, too. If you are unclear on something, ask about it. If you are uncomfortable with another user's comments, (politely) tell them what the problem is.
  • Your Mileage May Vary – To many people, this will not be a surprise: there are people on the Internet who disagree with you. For every element of Internet etiquette, there may be a community that foregoes it. For every tip mentioned here, there may be an exception. Go with the flow, and agree to disagree--preferably before you feel like you're hitting your head against a wall.

Is this going to alter your behavior in the coming week? What tips do you have to add? Over the coming week, share your stories of random acts of Internet kindness with the folks at Patch.

And to the overwhelming majority of JP Patch commenters — thanks for talking to your neighbors like they're your neighbors!

Mellincoly January 10, 2012 at 08:21 AM
I was rightly chastened last Fall for making a snarky comment about someone blowing a shofar, so I've already learned one lesson about rudeness on the internet. And after expressing displeasure via my hand to a young tail-gater, being followed through 3 towns, and nearly getting my tires slashed, I'm try to curb my rudeness in real life as well. Under the cloak of anonymity, it's easy to let the inner witch fly, but I have found that I can go so far as to type out the response to story that raises my ire, then just not submit the comment. That way I get it out of my system, but don't have to fan the flames with an uncivil reply.
Max "Jay" P. January 10, 2012 at 06:03 PM
kind of ironic that the first post on this article seems to violate Patch's comment policy. what's the deal with allowing WallSmart et al, Chris?
Chris Helms January 10, 2012 at 09:21 PM
Yes, it's a work in progress!
Chris Helms January 10, 2012 at 09:22 PM
Oh, also, there are some posts that are cross-posted on several local Patches. The commenting rules are looser on some of my sister sites. When that's the case, we aim to put an editor's note saying on which other Patches a post appears.
Mellincoly January 11, 2012 at 06:23 AM
I've been participating in JP Patch since before there was a change in policy requiring real names. Chris, is the continued use of a name in use before the policy change inappropriate?


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