A few years back I had a quite long list of guidelines I wanted people to follow when commenting on this blog. I’ve since changed them (or maybe I never posted them at all, I don’t recall), but they still seem like good guidelines for (online) interaction so here’s the list:
- Don’t overgeneralize about groups or humanity as a whole. Sure some or most people might fit a certain generalization but it could come off as quite offensive to the ones who don’t fit the generalization (and some who do). You could get around this by just adding the word most, but I don’t know how different most x are bla comes off from x are bla.
- Try not to argue (about politics) when you’re getting emotional. Try to get a good night’s sleep and see if you can approach things more rationally. This because to me it seems like getting angry at each other during an argument isn’t fun. Originally I also applied this rule to other emotions and though I can see how it not following this rule might lead people to adopt different conclusions then they would if they followed it, I can see how those different conclusions could be valuable now. Heck, even anger can be motivational and get people in your in-group to do something. When you’re speaking in front of an audience, where the people just watching the conversation and getting popcorn outnumber the people who’ll be frustrated by a shouting match, getting into an angry argument could be just fine.
- To some people, political jokes are only funny when you share a point of view and some people just have a different sense of humor. Not really a rule but something to be aware of.
I had more guidelines at the time, but what I left out were redundant guidelines which are already covered by the other ones and one which I think wasn’t very useful.