Friday, September 05, 2014

Stop Being An Asshole on The Internet

I guess it's safe to say that last week I had a post go viral and while I have experienced some small degree of Internet success before, this was like nothing that had ever previously happened.

It got so crazy that a friend actually messaged me and said she was worried about me. I reassured her that I was fine.

"But the comments!" she said.

"I ignore them," I told her.

Because I do. And so should you. And you and you too.

Trust me, I get that this can be extremely difficult. For like the first fifteen minutes of my article being viral I was truly tempted to read and respond to comments but then my better sense took hold and I went and played with my daughter and convinced myself that none of it existed. Because honestly? It doesn't.

Comments on the Internet aren't real. They don't matter. They rarely (if ever) make any actual difference in our lives unless, of course, we let them. They are like the noise of a traffic jam. Picture yourself trapped on a giant, crowded parking lot of a freeway in Los Angeles during rush hour in a rainstorm where everyone has road rage and PMS and probably caffeine withdrawal too all at once. Imagine the sounds of the honking horns, the yelling, the skidding and braking, tires squealing. But also imagine yourself safe inside your car, ignoring the noise, turning up some NPR and waiting it out. That's what you have to do with comments on the Internet, be they on facebook, in a forum or a Facebook group, the comments section of a blog post or any other form of online communication. 

The opinions of total strangers are inconsequential. They are to be taken in stride. A lot of them are seriously bat shit crazy. Case in point: someone managed to somehow, God help them, make my back to school post about the Israeli/ Palestinian conflict. I kid you not. That takes some skill. This person was like an advanced level Internet troll to make a leap like that. I was sort of impressed.

Last week my article ended up on the Huffington Post and I was so excited. Having a piece on there has been a long term career goal of mine and I was prepared. My friends started calling me up and asking me if I had seen the comments on there and oh my God people were calling me names!!!

I never read a single one of them. I don't really care if people were calling me names because first of all these people are strangers, their behavior reflects more poorly on them than it ever could on me and I just don't care.

The first rule of fight club, I mean writing for Huffington or any other big online publication is "NEVER READ THE COMMENTS."

You know those jail scenes in movies where someone has to walk through a corridor of cells and the prisoners inside are all going totally ape shit yelling and screaming, spitting, throwing poop and hurling insults? That's Huffington's comment section and you've got to walk through there unscathed, pretending none of it exists. Don't dare engage with the rioters or someone's going to reach out through the bars and wipe his jizz on you. Do not make eye contact with the prisoners under any circumstances.

That's how I maintain my sanity most of the time, but although I have a pretty much iron will about this sort of thing, it can still be hard, and my experience last week has me thinking.

We all need to stop being such assholes on the Internet.

But, duh. That's kind of obvious, right? I think we all know this already as it applies to others, but not to ourselves. So I decided to make a handy guide.

Are You Being An Asshole on the Internet?

1. Are you arguing with a total stranger?

2. Are you mad because someone on the Internet is wrong?

3. Did you read something that pissed you off on the Internet and decide that you needed to respond to it immediately? Like NOW.

4. Were you personally offended by something someone else said or did on the Internet?

If you can answer yes to any of these questions you need to get off of the computer immediately, get a popsicle and go outside and no, you can't bring your phone. You need a break. You are most likely being an asshole on the Internet. If you look up you might see the underside of a bridge because you could very well be a troll.

If you have determined (as hard as it is to admit) that you are at risk for being an asshole on the Internet, please read the following words of advice.

How to Stop Being an Asshole on the Internet

1. Take a deep breath. Step away from the computer or phone or whatever freaking device you are using to be an asshole on the Internet.

2. Gain some perspective. There are many many people in the world who have different opinions than you and that is okay. There are people with different aesthetic preferences, different ideas of what is funny, different thresholds for finding things offensive and different backgrounds that all contributed to their differing worldviews. And we are all going to be okay in spite of this. 

3. You aren't going to change anyone's mind by arguing with them on Facebook or in a comments section. I know this is a hard truth to bear, but suck it up and face the facts. Arguing never convinces anyone. It just makes them more mad and more defensive.

4. Pointing out that someone else is wrong doesn't automatically make you right.

5. If you really want to change people's minds and opinions, don't worry about them at all. Live your own best life and be a role model. For example, if you are a vegan animal rights activist, instead of shaming meat eaters and arguing and calling them all murderers, how about let them taste your yummy vegan food? Let them see how healthy your glow is and how great you feel. Then when they ask your secret, tell them it's because you don't eat animal products and leave it at that. If they ask about it, answer their questions. And if they don't ever ask and keep eating steaks? Who cares? Keep doing the thing you love and feel is best for you.

6. Many of the bloodiest Internet arguments I've seen have been between parents with different views on how to best raise kids. Let me end this shit right now. First, kids are pretty resilient. The fact that I survived my childhood and grew up to write this post is testament to that. Second, there's a very wide margin of error in child raising. If children are loved, fed and sheltered they're pretty much going to be okay. If you are really worried about the well being of children then take your smug ass of the computer and save the kids who actually need it, you know, the ones who live in poverty and abuse in our inner-cities and impoverished rural areas. Help the kids who live in shelters, the kids whose mothers' boyfriends beat the crap out of them, the kids who have no access to fresh fruits and have to eat a bag of Cheetos for dinner. Stop bitching out some bedraggled, middle class mom with a blog who stopped breastfeeding after a week and switched to formula and channel your venom into fixing a world where children in the projects actually choke to death on cockroaches. How about that?

7. We are all on our own paths in life. We learn at our own pace through different experiences. Many people's belief systems, especially the ones you think are really messed up, were cemented at a young age. Many people believe the things they do because they were born into certain belief systems. Often, we inherit our opinions from our cultures, religions and families. Sometimes our beliefs are sealed by fear. Some people will be able to change their minds and others won't. That's just the way it goes and you and your online raving isn't going to make much of a dent, so have compassion and try to put yourself in someone else's position, imagining how or why they believe what they do and then leave it alone.

8. Go do something fun. Please. Get out of the house and engage in some real-life, face to face positive human interaction.

9. Make this your new mantra: Just because someone says something doesn't make it true. 

 10. In the event that you have posted something on the Internet which has inspired comments understand this: no matter what it is, 1/3 of people will love it, 1/3 will be indifferent and 1/3 will hate it. Out of the 1/3 that hate it, a significant portion is likely to
be insane. It's not personal. It's kind of a numbers game and you can't please everyone.

11. By next week the people you're arguing with are likely to have completely forgotten you anyway so who cares?

12. Your opinion, rant, diatribe, etc. ultimately doesn't matter in the grand scheme of things. If you are passionate about a topic then go out and actually do something. Take action. You might think that commenting is taking action but it's not. It can be the start of action in the best possible scenario, but usually it isn't.

13. When you bitch someone out, call them names, wish ill will to the mothers of people you have never met and will never meet, you are, alas, only reflecting poorly upon yourself and not the other person. How you act and what you say is always only about you. 

14. Audrey Hepburn, the embodiment of grace and class would never have sat behind her keyboard for three hours calling a woman in Nebraska a stupid, twat-licking whore. I'm sorry, but it never would have happened. So before you type, take a moment to ask yourself "Would Audrey Hepburn have said this?" And if the answer is no, which it probably will be, then don't say it. Move on. Be elegant and eloquent like Audrey.

15. Have some ice cream (and yes, I am aware that by including this that someone somewhere is going to read it and blame me for furthering the obesity epidemic and I am fine with that.)

16. And for the love of God, if after all this you still feel you must insult someone or express your distaste for something someone has written, please proofread and check your spelling. Okay?


Simple Living Los Angeles said...

I've come to the conclusion that people have no lives...

Anonymous said...

It's not what people say that bothers me..... It's HOW they say it. Punctuation, capitalization, spelling, sentence structure, subject/verb agreement.... that kind of stuff. I don't mind people writing in the manner they might speak. I just hate it when ignorance and stupidity are so evident. And the thing is... they don't even know it. But, I never comment. What would be the use of it. I feel very "trollish", now.

Anonymous said...

I'm excited to see the comments on this post.

JoeinVegas said...

What - you ignore my comments? Oh, now I'm just going to have to
Oh, hmm, fudge ripple in the freezer, hmm

luksky said...

I love this. I believe a lot of (most) people use the internet as a shileld to spew all their emotional baggage all over their chosen victims.

Unknown said...

Way to be Sweetie!

Kristen, spinning said...

I agree wholeheartedly and I read somewhere (this is a theme of mine, the I read it somewhere but for the life of me have no idea where) that we need to stop being anonymous. So I have started signing my full, real name. And I wish that you couldn't comment on things unless you had to use your name. I know, I know, there would be ways around it. But surely they could figure something out, these computer wizards? I mean, they can send me targeted ads, right? News organizations should be the first to disallow anonymous. Signed, most sincerely, Kristen McLeod. You can also find me at

Kristen, spinning said...

p.s. congrats on the viral blog thing. it was fantastic. showed up all over my FB page before I even found it on Huffpost. -Kristen McLeod

Heidi S said...


Wide Lawns said...

Never Joe.

JJ said...

I think everyone is an a$$hole on the internet sometimes. But it's funny you should post this now, because I had been planning to post a comment about your viral post, though last time I looked it had about 30 comments. The bento boxes and handcrafted Disney character sushi, along with the tales over the top birthday parties, has been under my skin. It's almost as if kids are exotic pets. I wish moms today were spending more of their time and talent as activists--whether about pollution, climate change, violence in schools, or any other cause that will use their talents and nurture their kids' future. Less boredom and more fulfillment for the moms, more independence for the kids.

Alison said...

You. Rock. That is all.

Unknown said...

I think we're all overwhelmed with the influence and overwhelming impact that social media is having. There is no balance. There is no sanity. There is one freedom, as you say: walking away. Taking breaks from it. Not taking it too seriously. Having a balanced life where you actually get out in nature or throw a ball instead of clicking keys all day. We're all consumed with growing numbers and increasing our influence and working long hours to make our mark in some way. It's crazy alright. I am on a techno diet, have been for a while. So my website won't grow as fast, who cares. I want a balanced healthy life, and that's a difficult pursuit for all of us in 2014. So Good for YOU. Go get 'em and don't worry about 'em. Let's all watch our manners, be kind, and enjoy our frigging lives :)

Anonymous said...

I almost feel as though I shouldn't comment. I generally don't follow blogs but I do yours because i Googled how to do something once and your site came up. I was hooked by your top paragraph. Is your new book out on nook yet? I refuse to buy anything on Amazon because (rant omitted :)). SG in NJ

Jenny Kanevsky said...

Yes. What you said.

MrsTDJ said...

Totally awesome post!! I ignore lots of comments, especially the one with bad grammar and typos.

mcgrim said...

Congrats on going viral and getting into the Huffington Post. It was only a matter of time. Sometimes I think we seek out the things that will irritate us: If sanctimonious atheists irritate me so much, then why do I follow Richard Dawkin's tweets??

Anonymous said...

Hi Victoria! Wide Lawns still rocks, and we love you!!! Janet from Chicago

CA said...

Very well said. I'm one of those people....I said something to you on your blog without thinking several years ago. You had a very witty reply, and I truly apologize for taking out my personal issues on someone I've never met, or who has never offended me. I wish you well, and thanks for posting's very inspirational, and will remind me to think before I post when I'm angry at myself and at things I can't control. Be well.

Anonymous said...

This is...AWESOME! I wish everyone on the internet had to read this before they are allowed to post. Granted, for the truly flaming nutballs it wouldn't make a difference...but it might make the mostly rational think for a moment or two. Cheers!

Anonymous said...

Very well stated. I am one of those jerks who took something you posted years ago personally, and wrote something not so nice. I'm very sorry, and you so put me in my place. :) I still regret it, and I still love your writing. You've made me stop and think. I can still be a jerk, but I am trying to live my life and not take out my issues on the internet. Great post, and best wishes to you. Be well. :)

John said...

I stumbled upon your blog after a friend linked one of your posts on FB. You say interesting things, and I like a lot of them. I think there's a place for debating strangers, but the trick is to talk to them as if you'd talk to someone face to face, I think. When people go batshit webtroll on me, I tend to call them out very specifically on their actions and then bounce. At the very least, the "lurkers" might see the exchange and I'll have set a good example. How do you eat an elephant? ;)

Spoonman said...

Very well said, and shared on facebook

Anonymous said...

Well said, and timely. A few months ago I saw that some people were commenting on the back to school stories you shared. I thought, really? Are you kidding me? You took the time to write a funny and very true account and these so-called upstanding folks are criticizing you? Over this? Yeah, life's much too short. I nearly chimed in to let them have it, and I, like you, figured it was a waste of time on a waste of space.

You're fabulous and I was tickled when I saw your observation on Huffington Post. Now, if you could just get that book published! I like to lie around and read and I don't want to buy a Kindle, a Nook or whatever else is out there. I like books! Made out of dead trees! :)

Geri said...

I just found you through the Momastery blog... trying to figure out the viral post!? Love your blog...the name of it... the way you write. You, too, are a truth teller! Excellent post. Agree with other comment that I wish everyone had to read this before using internet. I also loved how a couple people apologized for previous comments... good job people! :)

Unknown said...

Hi, Victoria! My name is Liz and I'm a student in Dyanne Martin's creative writing class. Professor Martin recommended I read your memoir _Amateur Night at the Bubblegum Kittikat_ seeing as how we are starting writing projects and I have chosen the brilliant option of writing my entire life's fuckery on paper. She informed us that you will be making an appearance in our class and I am thrilled! I thoroughly enjoyed your book, as well as your blogs, and I look forward to meeting you. Keep doing what you're doing and don't let the bastards grind you down!! You've got a fan in me.

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