5 Rules for Leaving and Receiving Comments on the Internet

5 Rules for Leaving Comments on the Internet | Positively Smitten #comments #polite #manners

As an outspoken women, I’ve had my fair share of vitriol spewed at me. Turns out some people don’t like it when women speak out, and some people like it even less when you’re saying things they don’t like.

On a freelance article I recently wrote about my dog, I was essentially told I was such a bad dog owner, I should have my dog stolen from me to teach me a lesson. (I was writing about my apprehension regarding microchipping.) On my personal blog, I was once called a “fat, ugly cunt” just for existing. While I ran a sex-positive, anti-Cosmopolitan Magazine blog, the comments were no better. A sampling:

  • You should get some liposuction and maybe some of that constant anger and hate will go away. Maybe. Perhaps you should delete all your posts and just write in big bold letters, “I wish I was either a Man or a pretty girl. But I’m not so I’m going to hate those that are.” You’d be saving yourself a lot of time and effort. And people would get the message a lot clearer as well.
  • Most feminists are just really ugly or deeply insecure girls that need some “cause” to feel like they actually matter to the world. In your case, the problem is clearly both. You try to sound “fierce,” but I’ve noticed so many errors and complete generalizations on this site that you actually make Cosmo look educated and classy. Get a new hobby. Better yet, get a life. If you can.
  • Okay I’m going to say what most people really think but don’t say when they see your blog. You are the reason people don’t like brown people.

Even on Positively Smitten, a place Steph, Liz, and I tried to create to foster a positive space for women isn’t “safe” from the ugliness. On my post about existing while fat, I was told to “[s]tuff your cupcakes in your facehole [sic] and shut up.” On my post about racism, I was told I needed to chill out because I was uptight. On my post about millennials, I got a Facebook comment about how I needed to quit my bitching.

Unfortunately, my experiences are not unique.

When Anita Sarkeesian of Feminist Frequency launched a Kickstarter to explore recurring female stereotypes in video games, she said she was met with “a torrent of misogynist and racist slurs as well as threats of rape, violence and death.” Yet when she shared what was happening, rather than quell the issue, her harassers upped the ante by “attempting to DDoS my website and hack into my online accounts.  They also tried to collect and distribute my personal info including my home address and phone number. They made pornographic images in my likeness being raped by video games characters which they distributed and sent to me over and over again.”

When Lindy West, a writer for Jezebel, spoke about how she didn’t feel rape jokes were appropriate in the comedy world, and were indicative of a larger problem — that women weren’t welcome in comedy — she experienced something similar. Not only was she bombarded with threats to rape and kill her, but she was called out for being fat on top of it. Mostly, people told her she wasn’t allowed to have an opinion on rape because she was too ugly to ever even be raped. Yep.

Plus, the website Fat, Ugly, or Slutty exists, detailing the awful comments women who play video games have to deal with.

And that’s just three examples.

The internet can be a tricky place to navigate for anyone, especially for women, who often receive vicious comments compounded by threats of rape and misogyny. If you tend to take things to heart (like me), it can be difficult to deal with your first “I hate you and hope you fucking die” comment. So here are 5 basic rules — for commenters and for those receiving comments — to abide by and remember.

1. Consider the audience.

Do try to remember where you are on the internet. Websites with moderated comments and/or with comment rules tend to be the best places to frequent, and can often lead to intelligent discussions and debates. However, the reach on big websites like MSNBC and CNN means that the likelihood of vicious comments is a lot higher — and many of these people will be stuck in their ways. You aren’t going to get the intellectual discussion you are looking for while commenting there, and instead, you’ll likely just end up feeling sad for humanity.

2. Pick your battles; keep your sanity. 

As much as you may want to, you can’t enlighten everyone on the internet. There are some people who are just racist, misogynistic or downright mean. It hurts. It sucks. I know. But there is no getting through to some people. If you’re the one who’s receiving the mean comments, do your best to let it roll off your back. Tell yourself whatever you need to in order to do so.

3. Remind yourself that there is a person on the other end of the computer — no matter how awful they are.

If you are on the receiving end of the hateful comments, try to pause and take a deep breath. Whoever is on the other end is lashing out, for whatever reason — but that is their issue, not yours. Getting involved and taking personal jabs, like saying you hope they are barren and that their mother burns in a fire, is not a great idea. Likewise, if you’ve just read an article that makes you angry, pause before typing up that unbelievably hateful comment.

4. Comment as if you were talking to someone in real life.

Louis C.K. has this amazing bit about how the car is the only place in the world we all feel comfortable telling someone that we hope they die. (It’s way funnier when he says it.) But I’d amend that to say we’re oddly okay telling people to die both when we’re in the car, experiencing road rage, and when we’re on the internet. The next time the urge to tell someone to jump off a cliff strikes, go for a walk. Close the computer. Step away.

5. When in doubt, don’t read the comments section.

Period. This is one of the first unofficial rules you learn in journalism, with good reason. Memorize it, love it, live it.


10 responses to “5 Rules for Leaving and Receiving Comments on the Internet

    • Aww, thank you, dear. It is always a bit jarring to hear the things people can (and will!) say, but as long as I am not stooping to that level, I feel like I can lift my head high. Thank you for the comment. 🙂


  1. crys, you and all the other ladies who contribute to this site should not take the trash talking too seriously. as it is generally a small mind with little to no social skills on interaction that allow them to hide behind a post from somewhere in the Ethernet. and hank and i used to agree on one thing, like sir Edmund Burke wrote.” the only thing necessary for evil to succeed is for good men to do nothing” . so you and all your compatriots should continue to point out societies shortfalls.


    • I will keep that in mind the next time someone says something mean to me on the internet. I think people tend to forgot there are real, live people on the other end of that computer! Oh well. Thanks for the advice — and also for always commenting. It’s very nice to get comments from you! 🙂


  2. This post is spot on. My favorite recommendation is ‘picking your battles’. As the author of a writing and lifestyle blog, I’ve luckily only had a few rough encounters through comments. However, when I was Freshly Pressed on an article about homesickness, I was suddenly labelled every mental health diagnosis in the book. It was shocking, but it’s also so important to remember: this is one person’s opinion, and we all know what they say about opinions. Even further than that, it’s almost sad when I see those types of comments. Most of the time it’s negativity projected and you’re left realizing this stranger on the interweb has taken time out of their life to throw hatred your way. They must be a very sad person with an unfulfilled life.


    • “this is one person’s opinion, and we all know what they say about opinions.” — I love this point, and you are totally right! It can be VERY jarring to deal with negative comments, especially on a post that seems innocent (like yours, talking about being homesick, something we have all certainly experienced!). Like you, I almost feel a little sad for the individuals who tend to spew hate. Do they really not have anything better to do?

      Anyway, I’m glad those comments didn’t discourage you and I, too, will try to keep in mind some of the great thoughts you’ve offered. Thanks so much!


  3. Definitely a fan of “Don’t Read the Comments”…unless I want to get fired up about something. Then it’s a good place to go!
    Also, I *loved* your anti-Cosmo blog, and that’s what led me here 🙂


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s