• SumoMe

How to not be a jerk

This is a sponsored post. I was compensated by the Ford Fiesta Movement to write this article, but was given creative freedom to decide the manner in which to do it. All views and opinions are my own, and I was given total control.

There’s something about the internet that turns relatively mild-mannered guys into blathering morons or annoying pests. In a world where sharing your views is so easy, many guys these days overshare to the point of e-nausea, usually in the form of political rants, sports commentary, or mundane non-update updates about life. To me, the most annoying instance of oversharing on the internet is the political rant. I enjoy a good political debate just as much as the next guy, but sadly there isn’t much actual debate going on out there, and most of it is mindless ranting. Sure, there are certain forums and nooks of the internet where intelligent debate lives on, but for the most part it’s blowhards voicing their opinions as facts with one underlying mantra: “if I disagree, it’s wrong.” Here’s how to not be a jerk while discussing politics on the internet:

1. Don’t say anything. Sometimes, sharing a provocative link is all you need to say. Leave off your own commentary and let your article, editorial, or piece speak for itself.

2. Accept dissenting views, and thank the responder for them. “Interesting. Thank you for your thoughts Aunt Cathy!” While you might be seething with disagreement inside, just accept that others see things differently and move on.

3. Engage with dissenters, but engage with ideas, not the person. When you start to label your opponent “communist,” “right-wing radical,” or “nincompoop,” you’re going into ad hominem territory, and this is where internet debates always go wrong.

4. Change places. Think, “If what they’re saying is true, what are the ramifications?” If you place yourself in your e-opponent’s shoes, you might realize they have a good point…or don’t…very quickly.

5. Use proper grammar. This goes for anything in life, but especially online debates. Once you start TYPING IN ALL CAPS AND BOLDING UNNECESSARILY, people stop reading immediately. Nothing makes you look like an idiot faster than caps lock.

6. Keep it to a minimum. Nobody wants to read your 15 links a day about shelter animals. Yes, it’s sad. Yes, we should adopt animals. Think about how much information you skip over on the internet every day. Why? Because it’s usually from a source or person who bombards you with information that you never know what’s worth your time. It’s the people who tweet, update Facebook, or share information the least who I pay attention to the most. Be respectful of the people on the receiving end.

7. Make a joke. Jokes are great tools for teaching; or at least it works for me. When I was studying for the bar exam, I made tons of stupid puns as pneumonic devices to remember points of law. I also remember jokes made on the Daily Show much easier than I remember statements made in staged debates on cable news networks. If you can condense a complicated issue into a humorous joke (sort of like political cartoonists do), you’re adding value to the information: people appreciate this.

When engaging in social activism or political debate online, keep in mind that there’s an actual human on the other end of whatever you’re writing. If you wouldn’t say it to their face, you shouldn’t type it online (this rule usually works for most people, not all though). I’m not saying you shouldn’t try to enact some form of social change online–it’s a great vehicle for disseminating information. However, there’s no need to disseminate every thought that runs through your mind. If you really want to say it, write an article or something long-form and not directed at anyone in particular–unless it needs to be. Just don’t be a jerk, y’all.

What kinds of things do you dislike when you see people discussing politics on the internet? Give your advice in the comments.