Writing is not easy. If you had told me that a few years ago, or even a few months ago really, I probably would have laughed it off. How hard can it be to write? You take your thoughts and put them on paper, or more likely, a computer screen. Little did I know, that is only the beginning. Since becoming a writer for SpouseBuzz a whole new difficult aspect emerged for me as a writer; the comments.
Everyone is entitled to their opinions, I knew that. I expected certain things I would write others may not agree with. Is it naive that I expected debate level responses? "Your opinion is interesting, but I have to say I feel differently. I think..."
Maybe it was naive of me. I thought military spouses, of all people, would want to support one another regardless of differences. I know plenty of spouses who stop going to their unit's Facebook page, or other support sites, because some of the things other spouses say continually upset them. I was surprised that some comments I have seen, even on this site, are actually quite cruel.
Take Erin's article from a few months ago as an example. Yes, people are passionate about their pets. I as a dog owner understand that. Now, I don't want to bring up past arguments, but I know certain comments had to be removed due to some rather nasty name calling and insulting. You don't have to agree with a writer, but to insult them is rather harsh. Even one of my first articles had me be called out for some misinformation. In my excitement I just wanted to share my experience, but some commenters (even after I fixed the initial mistake) continued to rip apart my article with a fine tooth comb and completely take away the point of having it published in the first place. From their safe, anonymous comment boxes they even questioned my validity as a SpouseBuzz contributor and said I should be removed. Now, I know a thick skin is important, and I am working on it, but I was pretty hurt by the things that were said and it definitely lowered my self-confidence a few notches.
It happens all over the internet, from Huffington Post articles to personal blogs. Some people sit down at a keyboard (or at their smart phone) and suddenly all politeness can go out the window. Even on this Duffel Blog article, a satirical site that is just for laughs, many military spouses waved some very ugly flags in the comments.
Here are five simple rules I think everyone should keep in mind when commenting anywhere.
1. Put yourself in the other person's shoes. Whether it is the writer of the article or another commenter, how would you feel if someone responded to you in the manner you are about to respond? How would you want someone who disagrees with you to tell you that? Generating articles on a regular basis is no easy task, and when writing you definitely put a bit of yourself out to the world for scrutiny. Having someone call you names, curse at you, or just be cruel can be a hit to anyone, even some of the most seasoned writers.
2. If you wouldn't say it to someone's face, don't type it. Do I honestly think someone would meet a commenter here and they would say, "Who the heck decided to let you write for SpouseBuzz??" Well, maybe some people out there would, but that seems extremely rude and unnecessary to me. When people sit behind a computer or a smart phone it is very easy to lose your sense of humanity and compassion. It is very easy to forget the writer/other commenter is another person with feelings. That may make it easier to just rant and rave your opinions or insults back in a way that you may never normally vocalize. Unlike when you speak, when typing you do have the luxury to go back and edit and change your mind, but it seems to me a lot of people don't bother. Read it out loud, imagine saying that to someone's face ... would you still send it?
3. Feel free to disagree, but present your opinion in a way that makes people want to read it. I am not going for all rainbows and butterflies here. We, more than anyone, know the importance of freedom of speech and the rights to our own opinions. But when you comment with tons of CAPITAL LETTERS and exclanation marks !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I tend to want to keep scrolling. You may have a valid point that could sway my opinion, but presenting it in such a negative way makes me not want to bother reading it. Be courteous and present your point, there is no need to YELL at someone or personally insult them.
4. Think of who could read your comment before you say what you want to say. With so many sites allowing you to link your Facebook to comments, make sure you realize how many people are accessing your information before you go off on a rant. Do you really want your boss/sibling/parent/potential employer/coworker/whoever seeing you say what you are about to say? On the Duffel Blog article linked above many commenters replied with something similar to, "I am a proud milspouse and I will NEVER salute or show that kind of respect to another spouse." Pepper that sentence with a word that rhymes with a witch and a few other choice words and it may be more accurate. Is that really how you want to present yourself (and perhaps to a civilian a perspective on military spouses in general) to the world?
5. If you can't say something nice ... Do I need to finish? Yes, it is a cliche, but it has lasted this long for a reason.
Like I said, call me naive, but I never thought this would be such an issue that I would feel compelled to write about it. Here on SpouseBuzz we are here to support and help one another. Not name call, not belittle and not insult. Let us give each other the support we all deserve and treat each other civilly and with respect. Feel free to disagree, I am not asking you to be a lemming by any means, but do it with class.