I’m social-media free
I’m off extractive, algorithm-driven social media since seven years. Therefore, I’m not accustomed to being attacked verbally, because I’m not participating in this kind of sport anymore. Still, there’s times when some kind of those frustrated people who like to attack and to be aggressive online make comments on my YouTube videos. Of course, a large majority of those people are on my Polish channel, since Polish people are very frustrated and at the same time they are also very poor communicators — so these two characteristics together make for very bad commenter experience.
But I digress.
How to have a good, respectful conversation online?
If you would like to improve the quality of your discussions online, first of all, don’t start the comment by saying that:
- the video author is wrong, or that
- you don’t agree.
It’s because the people who make those videos have put a lot of time and effort in producing those videos and they really don’t care whether you agree or not. But they are open to have a conversation. If you start by stating that you don’t agree, you close the possibility for the conversation, because you already came to the conclusion that you don’t agree. It’s over.
If you want to discuss a part of the video, start by:
- stating your point of view (for example, if the video author says “I think donuts are a great cure for depression”, you can start by saying “I was depressed 3 years ago and tried donuts. It didn’t work for me.”
- saying what you would like to discuss and then tell it — and if possible, use your personal experience (the “I tried the donuts” in the bullet above — and add what worked for you), because if it’s something you feel or that (worse) you read online on someone else’s website and adopted as your point of view, it will not enrich the conversation.
Like in real life
Be respectful. Act as you would be acting in real life. I know it’s hard, since the anonymity that the internet gives you is so tempting. If someone asks you a question, don’t ignore the question — answer the question. If someone asks you the question three times, don’t ignore him, because in real life you would not ignore someone asking you three times the same question, wouldn’t you?
If you really want to know someone else’s point of view, to benefit from the takeaways that offers someone else’s experience — just ask questions. That’s it. You don’t have to judge the person that recorded the video or wrote the blogpost. You don’t have to say that you’re better than them. It’s irrelevant. If you start like that, no one will actually want to discuss anything with you, neither the author nor other commenters, because you will appear as a deficient person as far as your self worth is concerned.
Whereas, if you ask an intelligent question, it will be and reaching for everybody and a lot of people will engage with you.
Personal experience matters
If you have some kind of a personal experience with the people who recorded the video or posted the blogpost, don’t think that this personal experience will not have any incidence on how the discussion will go, because it will have consequences. So, let’s imagine that you met the person that posted the video several times in real life and each time:
- you were an asshole,
- you were not supportive,
- you were passively aggressive,
- you were manipulative,
don’t expect to be treated very well online. You will be treated as if the discussion online was a consequence of what happened in real life. That’s how people work.
Give negative feedback in private
If you want to make a negative comment and you really want to help the people who worked hard to post a video, publish a blogpost or publish a book — contact them directly.
Write a direct email with the negative comment or with your salty suggestion. There’s a million ways you can contact directly a person today on the internet — there’s email, you can find people’s phone numbers online, there’s direct messages. A lot of creators publish their email addresses — use them. A personal message is far better than criticising someone in public because that way you show that you actually want to help, that you actually want to discuss something.
In the corporate world, there’s a rule that very few managers know, but it’s a very good rule. This rule says:
Give positive feedback in public, but give negative feedback in the privacy of your office.
It’s because people in general will be inclined to remember the negative feedback and to remember the social cues around this negative feedback. If you give negative feedback in public, you will actually perform straightforward aggression on the person to whom you give this negative feedback. You will just show everybody else that you have a deficiency in your self worth, that you lack confidence and that you need to cope with this deficiency by giving negative feedback in public and humiliating the person in question. If you do that, you will not have friends and you will certainly not advance your career.
It’s exactly the same online. If you want to help the creator — write a personal email, call the creator. If instead you choose to make a public comment about it, you will rather show that you wanted to help yourself by judging someone in public.
I can already hear some of you screaming about freedom of speech.
You don’t have to show people in public that you don’t agree with them. It’s not a sign of freedom. It’s a sign of your deficiency. You have the freedom because you can write a negative comment in public. Nobody took away this possibility from you. But the fact that you can does not mean you should.
If you want to be helpful and have good discussions, please try to remember those rules. It doesn’t mean that you always have to be positive about everything. But remember that being a creator is hard, so if you can, and especially if you know the people that create content online and if you want to show support, say nice things in public about what they create. They will be grateful and they will for sure be thankful that you did. If you have improvement ideas — say them in private.
Now enter the mind-blowing part: you can do both at the same time! You can like and comment positively a video that your friend recorded and simultaneously write a personal email saying that he should improve his storytelling skills. Isn’t it amazing? And don’t forget to tell him also how he can do it (that’s the hard part)!
I sometimes react in a rough and rude way if someone makes a negative comment in public about something I created, because I understand the mechanism I described above and I want to keep people from doing that. It’s on purpose and it’s exactly how I want to react.
It’s not by error.
I don’t want to have a negativity feast in the comment section on my YouTube channel. I have seven years of YouTube experience on my Polish channel, where commenters ranged from passively aggressive to full-fledged actively aggressive. There were people who wrote to me in the comments that they will find me and kill me. I thought that I had to endure that because it’s how the world online is. That it’s a price I have to pay for having my YouTube channel.
Today, I don’t think like that anymore. The fact that I tolerated aggressive people on my Polish YouTube channel brought nothing positive to my life nor to the life of other people watching my content. Today I know it.
I don’t have to pay a price for having a YouTube channel and I certainly don’t think that I should endure this kind of comments. Today, I think of my comment section as of my garden. I am deciding what I want to keep in my garden.
If I don’t want to have bad plants in my garden, I can take them out of the ground.