Thought Catalog
July 22, 2013

Should I Post This Online? A Handy, Eight-Step Guide

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What is the issue?
Hey, there! Welcome to the Internet! It’s a pretty neat place. There’s information and community and more photos of kittens than you had ever imagined. Feel free to dive on in! Share a recipe! Discuss events that may or may not have been inside jobs! But remember, everyone reading what you write is also a human being with feelings and opinions. The Internet is an extension of the real world, not an alternative to it. As you’re navigating this vast realm of information, here’s a list of questions that will help you figure out whether you are, as the Scouts might say, leaving the metaphorical campsite in better shape than you found it.

Do you compare someone to Hitler who is responsible for the death of less than one person?

That person is not like Hitler. Try thinking of a historical figure of equal magnitude to whoever you’re talking about. Also, not to sound like an ethnic cleansing hipster, but your reference is hackneyed. Draw a parallel a lesser-known genocide for once.

Could you be overreacting?

Most people are not walking wraiths who have emerged straight from your nightmares to terrorize your waking hours. If someone seems to be expressing an opinion too ghastly to be true, read it again before responding. If it still seems like irredeemable nonsense, address it. Perhaps inquire as to what the writer intended rather than reflexively eviscerating him or her.

Will your words enhance someone else’s life other than your own?

Obviously, you’re free to blog whatever you’d like, but if you’re responding to someone else’s article or comment, it should be for everyone’s benefit, and not just your own sense of superiority. Will the other person’s day be better if you correct their grammar? No? Then keep it to yourself. No one cares about your mastery of homophones. Contradict someone only if disagreeing will provide information that will help them or others. There’s no Being Right On The Internet merit badge for adults.

Do you mean the thing you are saying?

If you are writing a YouTube comment telling someone to die in a fire, and you would not actually set fire to the object of your scorn, then maybe rethink your word choice. It feels great to be hyperbolic. It also feels amazing to do heroin. Neither one is a terrific long-term decision. Just say the things you literally mean, just as you would in any other discussion. You will find yourself having to defend way fewer statements that you never intended to reflect your honest opinions.

Would you say this out loud to a person’s face? What if that person were bigger than you?

It is easy to talk trash to someone from miles away, often anonymously. Ask yourself whether you would express the same ideas in the same tone if you were arguing face-to-face with a reasonable person who happened to outweigh you by a hundred pounds. Would that person punch you in the face? If so, you are probably (and I’m sorry to use a technical term) being a dick. Don’t do that. That’s not how to argue. In fact, if you are about to post something that would make people punch you in the face, delete it and punch yourself in the face.

Is everyone who has previously expressed your point a horrible monster?

Has the person or group you are agreeing with ever done anything positive for society? Would you let that person or group babysit your infant daughter? Or are they terrible cretins with garbage for brains and human feces for hearts? If the opinion you agree with has only been previously stated by horrible monsters, you are probably expressing a horrible, monstrous opinion. Maybe you are thinking: “I agree with this person, and I am a good person, so clearly this is a good opinion.” Probably not! It’s likely you need to rethink your stance.

Do you use the phrase “I’m not racist/sexist/homophobic, but…?”

If yes, knock it off! You are about to say something racist/sexist/homophobic. Of course you are. That’s what that phrase means, whether you realize it or not. No one would just say: “I’m exceptionally sexist, and I think women should not be allowed to hold political office.” People who are racist don’t say they’re racist. They say they’re “telling it like it is” or “saying what everyone else is afraid to.” Homophobes are always saying: “I love gay people, but they disgust me. You can’t say you love someone if you are afraid to hug them. Sorry! Them’s the rules.

Have you, at any point, used the word “sheeple,” unironically?

If you have, shut it down! You might as well just end your argument with, “You know…man?” You are a human black light poster. Grow up and use real words.

Well, that’s about it. Enjoy the Internet. Remember, it’s just like real life, only smaller. TC mark

image – Shutterstock