The ‘Webs and all them haters.

Technology writer Mike Elgan posted a short essay in Google+ on the comment culture of various social networking sites, particularly the emerging culture in Google+:

Comment culture is determined partly by the structure of the network, and partly by the prevailing demographic. But it’s also determined, in part, by deliberate effort on the part of the community.

So far, the general commenting “vibe” on Google+ has been awesome. But this could change, as the community grows. It’s up to us pioneers to set the tone, and shape the culture.

I believe the key is how we all handle criticism, which is an under-appreciated skill, in my opinion.

Elgan raised several good points on harsh or negative criticism and how one could handle them:

When someone criticizes you or something you care about publicly online, ask yourself: Is the comment disrespectful in some way? Is it a personal attack, rather than a disagreement with an idea? If so, you may be tempted to 1) attack the person back; or 2) defend yourself.

But most of the time, the best way to deal with disrespectful posts is to ignore them. By responding to them, you may bring a lot more attention to them, which in fact may be what the critic is after in the first place. By responding to respectful comments, and ignoring disrespectful ones, you can drown the bad ones in a river of constructive and interesting conversation.

Respectful disagreement is another matter. If someone strongly disagrees with your idea, or comment, without attacking you personally or being nasty about it, it’s a good idea to respectfully engage in a debate about the ideas in question. Or not. It’s your choice.

I’m a big believer in acknowledging good argumentation and valid points, as well as admitting when I was wrong — which is often. It’s easy to be embarrassed by being proved wrong in public, but I’ve found that people respect you more if you admit it rather than trying to win the argument by refusing to admit it.

Here’s my most surprising bit of advice: When someone disrespects you in private — say, a note that’s private to just you on Google+ or Gmail — the best response is a respectful reply. I’d say 90% of the hate mail I’ve responded to respectfully and without negativity caused a 180 on the part of the hate mailer.

The items he outlined could apply to any online forum and could be a reference to basic communications class. What with how how everyone seems to be eager to join in the pervasive social media, many people seem to forget how to act like decent, respectful people, instead degenerating into hordes of Internet trolls.

Read the rest of his post here.