I’ve had a lot of the internet over the past few days. I actually started doing what I usually refrain from; I wrote posts about a current issue that I feel strongly about and expressed my opinion. I used to keep out of current issues for various reasons and refrained from posting my opinions about everything because I wasn’t good at handling this phenomenon called ‘comment wars’.
Like the husband puts it, I have a low tolerance threshold for stupid. But I’m not good at sitting back and letting life pass me by. I’m a writer and I think; I like to express my thoughts too. So I tried to work my way towards being able to express my opinion without getting labeled or becoming shuttered to alternative opinions or just downright frustrated at all the nonesense that people sit and type when in the middle of one of these ‘comment wars’. I figured I couldn’t control what others did. Maybe I could put down some guidelines for myself? Make me a better netizen? So I did. And I think, in the last week, I’ve handled the internet better than I would ever have thought! I’ve narrowed down my learnings over the past year into ten points that I think some may find useful… briefly sharing them below:
1. Think… never stop thinking. It is the one thing that sets you apart from others; your thoughts. Always process information and think before acting on anything immediately.
2. Read. Explore. When you learn something new, find out more about it. Reserve judgment for later; just absorb the knowledge first. Find as much info as you can and look for information on both sides of an issue. Don’t get stuck on one side when it comes to information.
3. When you have all the information, use it and your thoughts to make an informed opinion. Not because you have to declare your loyalties on social media (which seems to be the trend) but because you need to know where you stand.
4. Be firm about your stand but not rigid; allow space for other points of view and more information. Sometimes, new information may indicate that your stand isn’t correct; be willing to adjust your stand as the new information necessitates.
5. Invite debates and airing of thoughts contrary to your own. Disallowing an opinion that doesn’t match with yours is the sign of a fanatic; don’t be one. Hear what the other has to say and patiently, respond to information with information. Try to make a point. Trading aggression and abuse only makes for a fight, not a constructive debate. The best way to make a point or convincing the opponent of your stand is not by trading insults. It is by trading information. Refrain from ‘branding’ people who oppose you.
6. Agree to disagree. Like you should never stop thinking, so shouldn’t others. And different people have different thought processes. Agree to disagree instead of labelling each other as brutes or hypocrites… you don’t have to have the same point of view on everything with everyone. Keep the peace even when you disagree on opinions. You may disagree strongly but you can still walk away from a debate without making it a fight.
7. Accept a mistake when you make one. There’s no shame in making a mistake other than hiding it. Accept, apologies and move on. It makes you more responsible and thus, respectable. Also, be graceful when someone accepts their mistake too. Don’t rub it in, don’t lord it over them; make it a safe environment for someone to admit that they may have been wrong; it makes people less defensive and more open to what you have to say.
8. Be fair. We live in a democracy. If you are a part of the majority opinion, you don’t need to lord it over the others; they were entitled to their opposing opinion. If you are a part of the minority opinion, don’t necessarily support the opposite of what you believe in. But be a sport; don’t become a roadblock either. Be fair. If you’d have been the majority, you would have expected support too.
9. Be responsible. Everything you say, share etc is your responsibility. Did you check its authenticity? Make sure you are not pushing an agenda with unconfirmed data. Rumour mongering, panic spreading etc are signs of a sour looser not a thinker… decide what you want to be.
10. Be peaceful. At all times, with everything. A calm, peaceful mind makes better decisions than an agitated one. It helps you use good words to make your point without taking recourse to bad language and insults. It lets you see the whole picture without being biased. It brings you solutions when in the most dire of circumstances. So keep a peaceful mind. Even when debating your point, be calm. Keep an open mind; accept an argument if it makes sense instead of dismissing it out of hand because it is contradicts your opinion. But be peaceful.
I know these things look like they are easier said than done but they are not. If you read my comments on anything, you’ll know I do them. I learnt the hard way that this is the only way to deal with the internet because otherwise, I was prone to flinging my phone, hurling abuses and generally gripped with the desire to slap someone. Now I only learn. I try to help resolve ‘comment wars’ where I can. But where I can, I learn and I try to spread any ideas or thoughts of mine that I think are worth spreading. As peacefully as I can. And I’ve learnt that people are more conducive to hearing me out and even agreeing with me when I don’t use an accusatory, condescending tone of voice in my writing.
Of course, needless to say, these pointers don’t apply in a hundred percent of cases. You find a whack job trying to justify objectification of women or rape or something, you abuse away please. These pointers are only for non stupid topics that actually do have two sides.