As a preface to what follows, I’d like to throw in an observation:
In the course of my work, I’ve often spoken to sharp, articulate people who work in a position of responsibility. Often people with innovative and unconventional ideas. Inevitably, at some point, I ask them: “Have you ever thought of using social media to try out a few ideas and get some useful free feedback”?
More often than not, the answer is “yes – I’ve thought about it – and no – do I look mad?”
“As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one.”
So if you get involved in a comment thread, someone is going to call you a Nazi fairly quickly. Or they will if you get involved in a poorly moderated comments thread.
The important thing to remember is that we’re all going to need thicker skins. So some anonymous commenter is being rude about you without really knowing you? So what! It makes them look worse than you most of the time.
When we leave negative comments anywhere, our readers can usually grab a sample of our online behaviour by following the links. If you’re generally positive and constructive, the occassional right-hook will find it’s mark. But most adversarial online commenters aren’t like that – and their readers know it. It’s a bit like eBay in that respect….
A few weeks ago, I added a post here about how you should be able to relax while the Internet chatters about you. The upside is bigger than the downside. It can extend your influence, save you time and get you talking to the clever people you want too as well as the boring people that you have to. The other day, Lifehacker made the point that you can’t win an argument on the Internet anyway.
Unreasonable criticism will even make you look good as long as you rise above it – just follow the US Airforce Blog Assessment guidelines as a rule-of-thumb for how to deal with it.
Update: I almost forgot this article in the Guardian earlier this week on how to understand and deal with trolls.