One of the great pleasures of blogging is reaching new audiences and, better yet, interacting with new people. On the other hand, blogging also puts us bloggers into contact with unpleasant commenters. This unpleasantness has compelled me to establish some guidelines for my own on-line behavior.
First, I strive always to blog, and to comment on other people’s writing, respectfully. I may critique other people’s arguments, I may even criticize certain people’s behavior, but I try to do that respectfully.
Second, when people disagree with me, I am happy to engage in respectful debate with them. But when their disagreements—when their comments to my posts—are disrespectful, I will not respond. At all. Life is too short to spend time debating people who are behaving that way.
Third, I will not respond to anonymous comments. Increasing evidence is showing that anonymity can damage people’s on-line interactions. Internet guru Jaron Lanier calls this “social lasers of cruelty.” If I am willing to post my ideas with my identity clear to everyone, then people commenting on my posts should also be willing to make their identity clear. I expect many people who post nasty comments would do so because they can hide behind anonymity.