Thought Catalog

How to Be Considerate on The Internet

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Being considerate can be a powerful tool in your daily and long-term struggle to not become an angry, jealous, out-of-control, earnestly depressed person who feels frustrated and cheated all the time. Being considerate can also be useful for (1) sustainably distracting yourself from—or, when combined with some forms of self-awareness, non-despairingly “immersing” yourself in—the troublingly arbitrary, ephemeral nature of existence (2) making and retaining friends you aren’t constantly “fighting” (3) increasing your ability to endure disappointments—or anything, really—with only a slight, pleasantly melancholic sensation of preemptive acceptance. Being considerate can be more difficult on the internet than IRL because (1) social anxiety disorder and the immediate threat of physical retribution do not exist on the internet (2) idle, nonchalant anonymity and the opportunity to be really inconsiderate by only moving your fingers do not exist IRL.

The following guidelines—directed partly toward their author, who doesn’t necessarily always view them as desirable, due to an overall confusion re existence/consciousness—ideally apply equally for everyone, unless discussed and mutually edited for whatever purpose, regardless of social status or level of influence on the internet, even if you’re interacting with someone in a career-oriented interaction that will massively benefit the person you’re interacting with more than yourself, as “considerateness,” in terms of this article, preempts hierarchy-oriented behavior, an arguably “inherently inconsiderate” behavior.

FIND INFORMATION YOURSELF

When seeking answers use dictionary.com, weather.com, or Google instead of asking someone. If you ask someone there’s a chance they’ll need to Google it themselves to find the answer, making it a situation where you’re simply and belligerently telling people to do things for you. Refrain from utilizing someone as your “information desk” even if you plan on qualifying your request, in an inconsiderate attempt to convey you aren’t inconsiderate, with “I could look it up myself but I’m too lazy” or “I tried but gave up,” sentiments you should instead use privately as motivational statements to stop being lazy and stop giving up, rather than as “ends” to utilize as explanations to deliver, with what can seem like pride, to the people you’re targeting.

If you know the other person knows the answer to your question, and can provide it faster than the internet, it’s still recommended that you use the internet. People will appreciate you’ve considered their time, resources, priorities and chosen to refrain from interrupting their lives; these people, in the future, may appreciate your considerateness to such a degree that they feel the desire to preemptively ask if they can help you with anything—ultimately actually saving you time in the long-term (as a considerate person, however, you won’t care, ideally, about [saving time in a one-person situation], arguably an “inherently inconsiderate” concept).

Accepting non-reciprocation quietly, without suddenly and nonsequiturly “hating” the person, is not only considerate but also productive, in that it’s probably the most effective, if not the only, way to cause the other person—some day, maybe, in some form—to sincerely reciprocate.

Additionally, categorically eliminating [interrupt someone else’s existence] as an option in your never-ending quest, as a conscious being, to get what you want can have the effect of increasing your levels of patience, self-control, acceptance—qualities that (1) can make it easier for you to be considerate (2) will ultimately increase your ability to get what you want.

Finally, it has been shown that with advanced forms of considerateness, often resulting less from wanting to be nice than from feeling bored by conventional goals in life, people will actually feel excited, or something like excitement—it’s been described by some, simply, as a feeling of “artistic satisfaction”—to successfully occupy a worldview that allows them to earnestly prefer [spending 90 minutes learning how to underline text in Photoshop] over [spending 30 seconds learning how to underline text in Photoshop] if the first option does not involve interrupting anyone else’s existence.

DO NOT EMAIL PEOPLE PRESSURING THEM TO RESPOND TO YOUR EMAILS

When interacting with someone, or thinking about interacting with someone, assume that your existence does not benefit them, that they don’t want to interact with you, that interacting with you is not one of their evolutionary or existential needs. Doing this will cause you to be more considerate, more inclined to improve yourself so that you may become more desirable and have a larger chance of being reciprocated, and less likely to resent the other person when they don’t reciprocate your affection or communications in an equal or—in especially belligerent cases—greater manner.

Be aware that if someone has not responded to your email or Facebook message they either don’t want to or simply haven’t done it yet, naturally and without ill-will, due to the nature of time and space, that one unit of matter cannot occupy more than one space at one time and that time is unidirectional, which results in “having priorities”—an unavoidable method of existence for non-schizophrenic humans that, in its more deliberate forms, is inherently considerate, in part because it decreases the chances of misleading people. Be aware that someone may not respond to your email even if you are amazingly considerate to them (via never pressuring them to respond to you, continuing to support their endeavors in a non-pressuring manner by participating non-pressuringly in their projects, never expressing or implying they’re causing you to feel sad or lonely or abandoned or unimportant) for 15 years after sending your email. If this happens do not feel negatively toward the other person; try to focus on liking someone for reasons that aren’t “because they like me” or “because they’re giving me attention.”

Accepting non-reciprocation quietly, without suddenly and nonsequiturly “hating” the person, is not only considerate but also productive, in that it’s probably the most effective, if not the only, way to “convince” the other person—some day, maybe, in some form—to sincerely reciprocate. If you feel jealous of who or what has been prioritized over you, or if you begin to feel resentment toward the person who isn’t reciprocating your affections, then you’re operating on the assumption that you own someone or that you’re defaultedly owed things and are being “cheated” out of those things—that the other person, or the universe, is “wronging” you. Behaving in this manner is illogical (in part because if people owned what they desired you would need to continually relent your desires to be someone else’s possession) and will cause people to dislike you and want to disassociate from you, increasing the amount of emails you send that receive no response.

DO NOT OUTSOURCE COPY-EDITING/LINE-EDITING/EDITING-FOR-CLARITY DUTIES TO THE PERSON YOU’RE EMAILING

If you see that you’ve typed something like “so what time are you getting in? oh, never mind, I’ll just look it up” delete both sentence fragments.

Edit your email for clarity, brevity, readability, and decreased “pressuring” before sending it. Arrange paragraphs so that questions are not “hidden” within large blocks of text, but either comprise their own paragraphs or occur at the ends of paragraphs, so that the other person won’t spend time rereading your paragraphs to “find” every question, worried about possibly ignoring one accidentally. If possible, refrain from ending your email with a series of non-specific questions, for example “how is everything? is everything good? are you having a good day? anyway, hope your summer is going well, is it hot there? wasn’t there a hurricane there last week? was it called johannes or something like that? remember when we were in that hurricane? when was that?”

Reread your email before sending it. If you see that you’ve typed something like “so what time are you getting in? oh, never mind, I’ll just look it up” delete both sentence fragments. If your email is business-related and you see that you’ve typed some form of “respond ASAP” delete it and insert an exact deadline and what will concretely happen if that deadline is not met. If you feel uncertain about a detail of the other person’s life, type “I think” or simply Google the information, instead of “moving ahead” and “typing it anyway.”

DO NOT SOLICIT SOMEONE WITHOUT INCLUDING THE OPTION, WITHIN THE SOLICITATION NOTE, FOR THE PERSON YOU ARE SOLICITING, TO COMPLETELY IGNORE YOUR SOLICITATION AND NOT FEEL BAD AT ALL FOR DOING SO

If the purpose of your email is to ask a question whose answer may be “no” include a disclaimer saying something like “If your answer is ‘no’ then feel free to not respond to this email. I completely understand. Thank you for your time.” Or “If you want to ‘pass’ for whatever reason simply ignore this email. I completely understand. Thank you for your time.”

REFRAIN FROM EXPRESSING THINGS THAT MIGHT CAUSE PEOPLE TO FEEL THAT AN AESTHETIC PREFERENCE CAN BE “GOOD” OR “BAD” OUTSIDE OF A CONTEXT AND GOAL

Do not publicly express that [something that doesn’t concretely affect others and has no concrete, objective, widely agreed-upon purpose] is [any earnestly qualitative abstraction, for example “good” or “bad”]. Seems like IRL you wouldn’t sit there, even in 6th grade, openly shit-talking a classmate’s drawing of a giraffe, within range of the person being shit-talked, who may be standing in front of you as you speak negatively about their existence. Doing something like that, besides being unseemly, would likely cause the person you’re shit-talking—and, indirectly, others with similar interests, preferences, sensibilities—to feel sad and alone and less glad to be alive and probably lose interest, to some degree, in deriving satisfaction from non-rhetorical, or “artistic,” expression, and begin to either “censor” themselves or conflate concrete reality with the world of abstraction, which can lead to killing rampages and other violent activities that you likely feel opposed toward.

If you are a person who earnestly says, feels, or thinks negative things about people you view as bad, because of what you feel they’ve done to other people, and you also feel that someone’s non-rhetorical expressions, personal interests, senses of humor, or aesthetic preferences are “bad” then it is logical, if you want to “make sense,” as a person, for you to want to focus on internalizing that disliking something does not mean the thing is bad—it simply means you dislike it, which, within most worldviews, only extrapolates in meaning, or “implies,” that every person is literally unique and will therefore like different things, not that certain things need to change or should stop existing, which is implied when something is viewed as “bad.”

REFRAIN FROM PROVIDING UNSOLICITED NEGATIVE FEEDBACK

Do not message or email someone to tell them you dislike them, feel indifferent to their work or life, decided not to watch their movie or attend their event or read their article, or think their work or life is bad. Unsolicited negative feedback is actually an unseemly form of effort designed to gain power over someone by conveying, dishonestly and indirectly, that they have no power or influence over you and that you view them as “just another person,” inaccurate because you likely wouldn’t tell “anyone” those things.

If you feel the uncontrollable urge to convey to someone that they have no power over you, or that you don’t care about them, try viewing their accomplishments and interests as existing independent of yours, so that you may one day live less in opposition to their interests than in actualization of your own interests, which can be derived in a considerate manner by focusing on things that you like, discerning why you like them and communicating sincerely with those who created them, until finally you feel the uncontrollable urge, instead, to convey non-rhetorical information to someone that you like. This paragraph is also helpful if you want to stop “shit-talking” but feel unable to stop viewing non-rhetorical information as “good” or “bad.”

DO NOT CHAT SOMEONE WHO IS “RED” ON GMAIL

If someone is “red” do not chat them, especially if you have nothing specific to say, but plan on saying simply “sup” or “hey.” If you have something specific to say, or a question to ask, it is recommended, still, that you do not chat them, but instead email them, as your email will appear on their screen with the same visibility and speed as your chat would have appeared, but with the email they will feel less pressured to respond immediately or at all, while also being able to “draft” something without your knowledge, a considerate option to allow someone.

DO NOT ATTEMPT TO BE SOMEONE’S FRIEND WHILE IGNORING THEIR ACTIVITIES WHICH CAN BE EASILY VIEWED ON ANY OF THEIR INTERNET PRESENCES

Look at someone’s internet presences before typing “how’s it going?” or “what have you been up to lately?” on their Facebook wall—potentially directly above dozens of links conveying what you’ve been doing lately—or emailing them to “check up” on them or to ask if [their project] is out yet. Asking those things in this manner is almost equivalent to going to someone’s new house for dinner and then, during dinner, saying “did you buy a new house?” instead of “how do you like your new house?”

DO NOT POST VAGUE COMMENTS

Do not type comments whose intentions, message, or tone are indiscernibly obscure, known only to yourself, or unknown even to yourself. If you can anticipate that a comment will cause people to respond with “what do you mean,” “what does that mean,” “I can’t tell if you’re being sarcastic or not,” or “is that good or bad” try to incorporate the answer to those questions into your comment before posting the comment. If you feel an uncontrollable urge to comment in a vague manner frame the comment so that it will not cause further confusion, for example if you really want to comment “dwarves aren’t medium” in a nonsequitur manner include, in your comment, why you want to do that, for example “i thought about werner herzog’s film about dwarves when i read your article about dogs because one time i thought about how dogs are like dwarves and then i wanted to type something about that but then i didn’t know what to type exactly so then i typed ‘dwarves’ and for some reason i thought ‘aren’t medium’ and felt confused but liked how it sounded so i decided to type it.”

Do not type comments qualifying your appreciation for something by saying you like something else better. Do not type comments saying you didn’t finish reading an article. Do not type comments saying something is the “best” thing you’ve read by a person when the person has written something in a style that is not their “normal” style. This is an indirect way of conveying “your work is bad, you should change it.” Do not type comments saying something is “good” or “great.” This is an indirect way of conveying, or direct way of implying, that other work, by other people is—or can be—”bad” or “horrible,” an “inherently inconsiderate” concept. TC mark

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  • http://www.facebook.com/TomSmizzle Tom Smith

    I enjoyed reading this article which includes points that I have thought of before with regard to other people online, and points that I myself will now attempt to take on board. I never thought about how saying something is the 'best' thing a person has written could be seen as a slight on all their other work. Thanks for the helpful advice, Tao!

    • http://heheheheheheheeheheheehehe.com/ tao

      sweet

      lol

  • Manam

    damn. do people really bother you that frequently on gmail?

    the email, but especially the gchat thing seems drawn from experience, and it's something you've repeated in interviews, too.

    article made me feel guilty for preferring to keep away from people, than do things like this because they are considerate.

    ar

    • http://heheheheheheheeheheheehehe.com/ tao

      i don't feel i'm bothered on gmail that much

      i feel amused about people chatting people when they are red

      seems humorously belligerent

      'article made me feel guilty for preferring to keep away from people, than do things like this because they are considerate.'

      can you clarify that, i feel curious but don't discern it fully

      • Manam

        i felt guilty because i felt like these are things that i should observe, in some way or the other, but i've always felt, in situations that require being considerate–if the act of being considerate in that instance is something that feels outside of what i'm naturally driven to do–that i would rather ignore the whole thing, and in order to not offend anyone, simply not interact with those people. avoid the situation entirely instead of learning the 'right' way.

        i feel guilty because i might be naturally inconsiderate. i don't know. your example about the new house got me. i'm exactly the kind of person who wouldn't ask something like that because it feels histrionic and insincere; there's no way i could ever care about how someone is 'finding a new house'. when i learn that my friends might expect this kind of behavior from me i feel guilty and alienated by my inability to perform it.

        i don't know. i just don't do things i don't feel like doing. i don't know. i find other ways to show people that i care about their well-being.

      • jmbg

        is it more courteous to appear 'invisible' on gchat and avoid being bothered altogether than to be 'red' and appear (maybe falsely) busy or afk to people?

      • Jezebel Walkabout

        Chatting to someone who is red over Gmail chat is like talking to someone while they are on the toilet.

    • shoehorn

      “article made me feel guilty for preferring to keep away from people, than do things like this because they are considerate.”

      agree, but also felt a strong paradoxical desire to further withdraw while i read it

      • Manam

        also did.

        doing that, right now.

  • http://lazyroar.blogspot.com/ Lazy Roar

    Ah, this is very good. Thank you, Tao. I will be 'linking' this to all my 'peeps'.

    • http://heheheheheheheeheheheehehe.com/ tao

      sweet

      thank you for linking to your 'peeps'

  • guesT

    someone once asked me for the time on facebook chat.

  • Manam

    i felt guilty because i felt like these are things that i should observe, in some way or the other, but i've always felt, in situations that require being considerate–if the act of being considerate in that instance is something that feels outside of what i'm naturally driven to do–that i would rather ignore the whole thing, and in order to not offend anyone, simply not interact with those people. avoid the situation entirely instead of learning the 'right' way.

    i feel guilty because i might be naturally inconsiderate. i don't know. your example about the new house got me. i'm exactly the kind of person who wouldn't ask something like that because it feels histrionic and insincere; there's no way i could ever care about how someone is 'finding a new house'. when i learn that my friends might expect this kind of behavior from me i feel guilty and alienated by my inability to perform it.

    i don't know. i just don't do things i don't feel like doing. i don't know. i find other ways to show people that i care about their well-being.

  • http://www.smokingonanemptystomach.blogspot.com Jordan

    i think i have done a lot of these things before with the knowledge that what i was doing seemed “belligerent” and “inconsiderate,” but didn't [something] and still did them

    i enjoyed reading this piece

    i felt inspired to “be more considerate” to people, i think

    i felt, i think, like i was “remembering” something i knew but forgot, either “on purpose,” to cognitively “be okay” with being “lazier,” or “on accident” due to thinking about other things, or… something…

    good job bro

    • http://heheheheheheheeheheheehehe.com/ tao

      sweet

      sweet

  • http://twitter.com/rionharmon rion harmon

    very thoughtful and insightful article. thanks for writing this.

    • http://heheheheheheheeheheheehehe.com/ tao

      hi rion

      sweet

  • http://hbgwhem.tumblr.com/ HBGWHEM

    i stopped watching a direct to DVD luke wilson movie to read this. i know luke wilson is virtually unaware of my existence and probably would prefer i didn't watch this movie to begin with, but after reading this article, i feel that stopping the film was inconsiderate to luke wilson and so i will rate the film 5 stars on netflix in my first step towards being more considerate to others..

    • http://heheheheheheheeheheheehehe.com/ tao

      stopping the film seems considerate, or not inconsiderate, maybe

      seems inconsiderate to other filmmakers for you to rate it 5 stars for being inconsiderate to him, in your view, by stopping the movie

      seems considerate maybe though for you to be having thoughts like these

      not sure

      not sure…

      • http://hbgwhem.tumblr.com/ HBGWHEM

        i think i figured out a happy compromise. i gave the film five stars on netflix in an effort to have a zero-zero karma ratio with luke wilson. if friends or family mention the film and ask if i have seen it, i will give them my honest opinion as it would not be considerate to tell them it was a five star movie, since it under no circumstance was the film a five star movie (except for in circumstance referenced above). to be fair to other filmmakers, i will give the film an honest star rating on imdb. most film professionals likely hold imdb ratings in higher esteem than netflix ratings. i think i am making progress.

  • Tryingtobeconsiderate

    this has vague implications that i am unsure of but i kind of forgot how good of a writer you are.. i actually at one point thought “damn.. he is really good”…. not saying that other writers are bad but… wait

    • http://heheheheheheheeheheheehehe.com/ tao

      sweet

      interesting

  • Steve

    “Like someone because you like them, not because they’re giving you attention”

    i need to internalize this…. i need to think about this

  • SamCom

    TOO MANY RULES! Sick of the rulez!

  • http://popserial.tumblr.com stephen

    sweet

    • http://heheheheheheheeheheheehehe.com/ tao

      sweet

  • http://twitter.com/eliseliu Elise Liu

    I loved this, especially as it became more and more ironic / impossible toward the end. A great way to indirectly bring up the limitations of 'considerateness' while also including helpful information on 'actual' considerate behaviors.

    • Guy

      wait.. yes. i didnt realize that was happeingingingi

    • http://heheheheheheheeheheheehehe.com/ tao

      damn

      honestly feel i wasn't being 'ironic' at the end

      seems possible to refrain from using the words 'good' or 'bad'

      glad you 'loved' it

      sweet

  • jmbg

    tao lin is the emily post of the internet

    • http://heheheheheheheeheheheehehe.com/ tao

      just googled 'emily post'

      damn

  • flix

    hilarious!

  • http://chrysler5thavenue.blogspot.com chrysler5thavenue

    I think it's considerate to tell someone that you didn't finish reading their article or that what they wrote sux and why because it is useful feedback to help them communicate better in the future and understand that they are writing in such a way that is thoughtless and maybe tedious. If you are presenting something publicly, you need to be considerate of your readers. There are more of them than there are of you.

    • http://heheheheheheheeheheheehehe.com/ tao

      sweet

  • http://twitter.com/rislynsey christopher lynsey

    Enjoyed this.

    • http://heheheheheheheeheheheehehe.com/ tao

      sweet

  • Nanny

    Omg Tao you are such a diva.

  • cubes

    “How to be an Asian stereotype/docile/tame/completely non-aggressive”

    i am not being considerate right now

    :( i am angry/earnestly depressed

  • Chillwave Gonzales

    Tao is chillwave.

    • http://heheheheheheheeheheheehehe.com/ tao

      sweet

  • http://timothypresence.com/ Timothy Willis Sanders

    interesting and practical, enjoyed

    • http://heheheheheheheeheheheehehe.com/ tao

      sweet

  • Bfranklin

    tao, have you successfully learned how to be considerate then?

    do you honestly think it works?

    i am wondering about if this is actual advice and a practical 'how to' guide for being a nicer person or if this is a backwards way of insulting all the people who double email you, gchat you on red, post vague comments?

    • http://heheheheheheheeheheheehehe.com/ tao

      i felt calmer while typing some parts of this, it seems to work

      i felt less frustrated about certain things while typing some parts of this

      seems to work, to some degree

      i feel it is actual advice to myself, more like a 'reminder' or something maybe

  • http://kumquatparadise.tumblr.com aaron nicholas

    tao lin > amy vanderbilt?

  • saramcgrath

    this was my favorite part:

    “Like someone because you like them, not because they’re giving you attention; liking someone because they like you is actually a deceptive form of medium-strong inconsiderateness.”

    seemed really profound, i also enjoyed the paragraph directly below that sentence

    • http://heheheheheheheeheheheehehe.com/ tao

      sweet

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jonathon-Ferrari/100001319787228 Jonathon Ferrari

    My status is always red on gchat. People are always welcome to message me.

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