Monday, March 06, 2006

Toxic Disinhibition and Blog Comments

Have you noticed how free people feel to make comments on blogs to others that they would not necessarily make in the course of normal conversation? John Suler, a psychologist at Rider University, has a good post on aggression and cyberspace and an article on the online disinhibition effect:

It's well known that people say and do things in cyberspace that they wouldn't ordinarily say or do in the face-to-face world. They loosen up, feel more uninhibited, express themselves more openly. Researchers call this the "disinhibition effect." It's a double-edged sword. Sometimes people share very personal things about themselves. They reveal secret emotions, fears, wishes. Or they show unusual acts of kindness and generosity. We may call this benign disinhibition.

On the other hand, the disinhibition effect may not be so benign. Out spills rude language and harsh criticisms, anger, hatred, even threats. Or people explore the dark underworld of the internet, places of pornography and violence, places they would never visit in the real world. We might call this toxic disinhibition.

On the benign side, the disinhibition indicates an attempt to understand and explore oneself, to work through problems and find new ways of being. And sometimes, in toxic disinhibition, it is simply a blind catharsis, an acting out of unsavory needs and wishes without any personal growth at all.

What causes this online disinhibition? What is it about cyberspace that loosens the psychological barriers that block the release of these inner feelings and needs? Several factors are at play. For some people, one or two of them produces the lion's share of the disinhibition effect. In most cases, though, these factors interact with each other, supplement each other, resulting in a more complex, amplified effect.

Suler talks about how people hide behind anonymity on the internet and feel they can say more hostile and aggressive things online than they would to a person's face. As I have said before, I do not mind if commenters wish to stay anonymous but I will ask my readers and commenters to please remember when responding to others, do not say things that you would not tell someone to their face--that goes for identifiable commenters also. I happen to be one of those people who is not terribly afraid of conflict. If I saw you in person and we were having a discussion, I would say the same things to you in person that I would online. I have a strong tolerance for negative comments, etc. (Remember, I deal with the most negative aspects of human behavior on a regular basis). They do not bother me terribly, however, they do bother others so please, respect the other commenters on this site and disagree in a polite manner. Any other suggestions for how to keep comments civil are welcome. Thanks!


Blogger Greg Kuperberg said...

The way to invite the bare minimum of self-restraint would be to change the Blogger settings on comments to require a Blogger identity. It is very easy to set up a Blogger account as a pseudonym, so there is no loss of confidentiality. But commenters would then have the tiniest little bit of reputation to protect, their Blogger screen names. It could make a big psychological difference.

This is what Ann Althouse does in her blog. You can post comments, but you have to have a Blogger account. It's a very simple way to make things better.

3:21 PM, March 06, 2006  
Blogger Dave said...

Althouse gets plenty of negative commentary so, not to be too negative, that shoots to shit the idea that having a blogger account inhibits one's tendency toward aggression or negativity. One thing has nothing to do with the other.

3:29 PM, March 06, 2006  
Blogger Greg Kuperberg said...

I'm not saying that it solves everything. I have been on the Internet for a long time and I know better than that. I'm sure that it helps. Blogger-account comments are at least better, on average, than 100% anonymous comments. (Nor is the problem "negative" comments in general, but more specifically unconstructive comments.)

Besides, with the Blogger comments you can at least know when two comments came from the same person. There is a lot of "who's on first" confusion with the comments labelled "anonymous".

4:06 PM, March 06, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

From my own perspective, I found that there has been some overly personal toasting on the comments section...but generally involving people who have certainly been very snotty and superior in their own regard.

But then, those people are not being anonymous! Nor does that kind of behavior "deserve" ill mannered responses, no.

I would much rather see respect and polite language, but these things are hard to require.

I would hate to see a few "bad apples"---anonymous or not---spoil what is a very valuable barrel for me.

Just my two cents.

4:07 PM, March 06, 2006  
Blogger Dave said...

"Besides, with the Blogger comments you can at least know when two comments came from the same person. "

But, someone else can just as easily register as 'Dave' and call you a are you going to distinguish between my contradictory comment and his hostile one?

4:43 PM, March 06, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Again, it comes back to civility and hoping that "bad people" won't frequent the site.

I don't see any way to have an open comments site that prevents that problem.

4:49 PM, March 06, 2006  
Blogger Greg Kuperberg said...

Dave: But, someone else can just as easily register as 'Dave' and call you a are you going to distinguish between my contradictory comment and his hostile one?

The links to the Blogger profile pages would differ. Of course you could try to make the Blogger page deceptive, but most people don't go to such great lengths to irritate specific commenters. (Why mock up a Blogger profile just to get in the face of one person?) In all of this, I'm not mainly talking about premeditated vandalism in the comments section. In this particular side of the question, I'm talking about well-meaning people who simply get lost when the default appelation is "anonymous". Once you have four "anonymouses" going in a conversation, you have no idea who said what.

It's the "luggage lock" principle. Token security has a psychological effect on half-decent people. You don't have to always EITHER get a steel suitcase with GPS tracking, OR leave your luggage unlocked completely. There is a middle ground here.

4:55 PM, March 06, 2006  
Blogger Mercurior said...

i tend to type what i would say to people, i try to be polite about it, i dont swear, or insult people.

sometimes being anonymous is preferable in certain cases, you need to say a deeply held private beleif but are afraid of stating it incase of a backlash.

5:24 PM, March 06, 2006  
Blogger Eric said...

Great post -- and the article on the online disinhibition effect was fantastic.

In nearly three years of blogging, I've been identified publicly, and I've done my best to be civil and logical, even when I'm extremely angry. I try to refrain from insults and ad hominem attacks, even when provoked. I also "hold back" much of my personal feelings and experiences. This takes its toll on me emotionally, and can lead to irrational feelings of martyrdom at times. But if I had to do it over, I don't know what I'd do differently. It's a tricky business; a rude comment can ruin my whole day and make me want to quit blogging. Sometimes I feel like turning comments off. There's an absolute right to do that. I'm sorry not to have a better answer, but what works for me doesn't work that well, and each blog is such a personalized undertaking that I don't think there can be any one rule.

(If I've learned anything, it's that anonymous commenters tend to be the rudest, and I should have been tougher and more ruthless with rude commenters.)

5:34 PM, March 06, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think the other issue at play is that some people post very frequently, and are in the throes of "punditry syndrome" (as opposed to any Instapundit syndrome!). They have a vested interest in frequent comments, consistent positions, etc.

Other folks are "lookie-loos" who cruise by and comment as they please.

Both have value, in my opinion.

I am reminded of First Amendment cautions: in order to have the freedom of speech we cherish, we must sometimes listen to speech that we find offensive.

Perhaps this is the cost of free expression---even on a blog.

Sorry for posting a lot---I have had some opinions about this for some time.

6:50 PM, March 06, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This topic reminds me of a conversation I had with a friend several years ago, when the Kevin Bacon remake of the Invisible Man was out in theaters. My friend said something to the effect that anyone who was invisible might act the way Bacon's character did in the movie - spying on people who don't know you're there, for example. He thought that everyone, if made invisible, would give in to the urge to behave in negative ways they never would otherwise. I replied that invisibility would more likely cause people to behave more truly like themselves. (I, for one would probably not sneak into someone's home or play cruel jokes, given that I can't even bring myself to play a bad character in a video game.)

It seems to me that posting comments online has a similar type of effect. People think of themselves as invisible, and thus free to behave any way they please. Those who would like to be more positive tend to post positive comments, or at least civil ones. Those who would prefer to give in to their darker, less pleasant or socially acceptable natures tend to vent their spleens.

I may be off base, but I thought it was interesting that an observation I had years ago might prove to be somewhat realistic.

Thanks for your post, and your site in general,
Julie C

7:59 PM, March 06, 2006  
Blogger Helen said...

Hi Julie C,

Thanks for your comment. Yes, I think that the web gives people a feeling of protection from others, much the way a person with road rage uses their car as a shield for acting in a crummy manner at times. However, as the article I linked to mentions, some people act as they truly want to be and wish they were and that can be a good thing--to speak up in a way that you might have been afraid to do so in the past, to act as a person who is not afraid to speak in public, or to confront another commenter who belittles and harasses others has its good points.

So, there is good and bad behavior on the internet, just as there is in real life---no surpise there--people can make their own decisions about how to act and hopefully, the majority will be decent and those who are not, will be called on it.

8:14 PM, March 06, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Y'know, the key to blogosphere happiness is ignoring posts or people who annoy you, and stickin' to the topic and points. There are some real opportunities to learn from one another.

But 'tis a human profession, and full of human frailties.

8:22 PM, March 06, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

...oh, and I forgot: someone wrote that anonymous posters tend to be the rudest.

Not so. The rudest people tend to be the rudest, friends.

Das ding an sich, as Goethe wrote.

8:24 PM, March 06, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

that's the stupidest fucking study i ever read!!!!!! suler doesn't know what the fuck hes talking about. what a fucking idiot!

9:55 PM, March 06, 2006  
Blogger DRJ said...

There are internet sites that I avoid because the environment is hostile and commenters attack each other in destructive ways. I like to visit websites like this one where there are civilized disagreements, and I enjoy those discussions more than sites where most commenters agree. I prefer that in my "real life", too. While I don't seek out conflict in my everyday life, I don't avoid it because dealing with disagreements early on often prevents bigger problems later.

I think the best way to maintain a civil discussion on a website is for the host to be civil and monitor comments daily. In addition, if a commenter gets out of line (by the host's standards), advise the commenter by deleting the comment or inserting an editor's note on the objectionable comment. That lets other commenters know that the host has standards, is watching, and what is out-of-line. Most civil commenters will agree to the host's rules, and those who aren't civil will eventually tire of the discussion.

And even though I don't post in my own name, I assume my identity is discoverable (although I doubt anyone cares enough to discover it) and I post accordingly. Even so, I don't feel hostile when I post comments and I hope it never comes across that way.

10:09 PM, March 06, 2006  
Blogger DADvocate said...

What amazes me is the level of anger and hostility that many people express. Occassionally I know the person, not just know who the person is but know them. I have to wonder if they have that much pent up anger or what. Sometimes, a person defends their hostile statements as "hyperbole" which, somehow, makes it all OK.

I don't always succeed but I prefer to keep debates/discussions on a more formal/less personal level.

10:48 PM, March 06, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Certainly "Dadvocate" and "Drj" are good examples of how blog comments should go, and I have learned from you both. You have never insulted anyone, and you have been cordial to folks with whom you disagree. Neither of you have ever resorted to "baiting" or showing a snide manner.

The baiting and snide nonsense is designed to get a rise out of people, and it feeds off itself. It is very common among people who feel that they need to disagree with a thread here that appears to be showing if a different point of view is somehow in and of itself virtuous. Instead, it is just a different point of view.

I like to see respectful and thoughtful debate. I dislike contrarians. There is a huge difference.

Again, "dadvocate" and "drj" are reliably helpful here on this site as sources of calm debate. I have learned a lot from both of you, truly.

11:11 PM, March 06, 2006  
Blogger Assistant Village Idiot said...

I am certainly much more astringent in comment sections than I am in real life, and am not entirely happy with that.

What I find in myself is responding in kind to tone. If someone makes a rude and attacking statement in the 3D world, responding with milder rudeness is not considered inappropriate. Comments that are at a level of arrogance I might just walk away from in person, I might answer online. A commenter who asserts that people who agree with X are just dupes who believe everything the Bushies tell them I would not even acknowledge on the street. I might try to reason with him, and might be quite cold and snippy doing so, online.

My uncle and brother, who are quite liberal, and my son and I who are more conservative, have had email arguments for years now. Especially early on, I would challenge statements as being completely out of line in rudeness. I recognized, of course, that this was just considered offhand criticism on the left, to characterize those on the right as stupid, bigoted, and the like -- my relatives were not even aware of the immensity of rudeness. Repeatedly over the first two years, I would have to reverse comments and write "So, if we zipped the name 'Al Gore' into that comment instead of 'Newt Gingrich,' how would it sound?"

They were genuinely uncomprehending at first, puzzled that I was offended, and easily irritated. I understood that this was (is?) just how liberals talked, having been one myself for so many years.

I think the rudeness factor is leveling out, both in my family discussion, and in the political discourse in general. The Kos kids might revel in being as rude as possible, but other liberals are at least taking more care to express themselves clearly, mindful of some word choices (even if their prejudices remain and leak out a bit). And there is certainly now no shortage of sites you can visit where conservative rudeness is in full bloom.

On the positive side of this, I find that online you can actually find a head-to-head argument on facts and first principles. People can state things forcefully in a way that might be rude in the 3D world, but is simply debate here.

11:26 PM, March 06, 2006  
Blogger Greg Kuperberg said...

Personally I think that it's tedious when people spend so much time talking about each others manners. Tedious at best. The material point is that if the comments section required blogger identities, then you could at least tell apart the rude anonymous people from the polite anonymous people. Yes, people could in principle have the same nickname. In practice, it doesn't happen very often.

12:08 AM, March 07, 2006  
Blogger DRJ said...

Oh, Greg K, things always get interesting when you decide to stir the pot! Here we are having a nice tea party, enjoying our little discussion about good manners, and you apparently find it tedious. I know a lot of people who would agree with you but indulge us this one time since it was Dr. Helen who raised the subject.

Anyway, look at the bright side. At least we aren't quoting Miss Manners. (Yet.)

1:13 AM, March 07, 2006  
Blogger DRJ said...

And thank you, Eric Blair, for your encouraging words. It's a pleasure to be a small part of Dr. Helen's interesting comment section.

1:26 AM, March 07, 2006  
Blogger Greg Kuperberg said...

DRJ: I didn't think that the question was tedious! To review, the question was how to make the comments section more civil. I thought that it was a reasonable question and I suggested an answer.

What I think is tedious is long conversations about other people's manners. Tedious at best, as I said. It isn't particularly civil and it doesn't invite civility either.

1:38 AM, March 07, 2006  
Blogger Greg Kuperberg said...

DRJ: Also, the main thing that makes Miss Manners bearable is her sense of humor. Example:

"Dear Miss Manners: What is the proper way to eat potato chips?

"Gentle Reader: With a knife and fork. A fruit knife and an oyster fork, to be specific. Good heavens, what is the world coming to? Miss Manners does not mind explaining the finer points of gracious living, but she feels that anyone without the sense to pick up a potato chip and stuff it in their face should probably not be running around loose on the streets."

1:47 AM, March 07, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, that didn't take long, did it? "Tedious"? "Tedious at best"? Discussions about civility do not "invite civility either"? Here we go again. The tone does not seem very...well, civil.

In everyday life, if I am part of a group conversation, and I find it "tedious"---well, do I tell the other members of the group that I find the conversation "tedious"? The result would not be pleasant, I would imagine.

No, I usually set off in search of another conversation, elsewhere, that I find more interesting.

Unless the point was not conversation, but simply "stirring the pot."

1:49 AM, March 07, 2006  
Blogger DRJ said...

I knew what you meant, Greg, and I hope you know that I was just joking with you.

Seriously, though, you do raise a good point regarding the Blogger settings. If someone uses their real name on the internet (as you apparently do) or if they use a consistent alias or pseudonym, then I agree that they are more likely to tone down and/or think through their comments - if only to protect their internet reputations. So I agree in theory that requiring Blogger identities might be a more effective method to promote civility in online discussions.

On the other hand, I notice a tendency at some websites (including at Ann Althouse's blog) for identifiable commenters to become entrenched in their views, almost as if they are trying to live up to the reputations they have developed as conservative, liberal, etc., commenters. Being an anonymous commenter may cause some to post more extreme comments but it also affords the flexibility to change one's mind without recriminations. And, as Dr. Helen has alluded to in earlier posts, there are many reasons people comment who want to remain anonymous. As long as things don't get too hostile, and I certainly don't think they are at this website, then I respect and appreciate that position.

1:51 AM, March 07, 2006  
Blogger DRJ said...

Greg -

I can't compete in the game of dueling Miss Manners because your example is too good, but here is Miss Manners on internet etiquette.

2:05 AM, March 07, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I thought that the potato chip story above came across as pretty snide, folks. But then, different humor for different people.

Still, I thought it typified the problem another poster brough up---an issue of tone.

Fortunately, drj came along and put in a fair and thoughtful post.

2:09 AM, March 07, 2006  
Blogger Greg Kuperberg said...

DRJ: On the other hand, I notice a tendency at some websites (including at Ann Althouse's blog) for identifiable commenters to become entrenched in their views, almost as if they are trying to live up to the reputations they have developed as conservative, liberal, etc., commenters.

If they aren't identifiable, then they may be just as entrenched in their views, but you wouldn't notice it.

2:36 AM, March 07, 2006  
Blogger jw said...

I've spent time commenting, on and off, since the late 1980's. Manners online are no better nor any worse then they were then. In other words, generally bad ...

I think there is something involving no visual cues and non-professional writers here, (among other things).

With a pro writer, one can get the emotional cues from the text: With us ameteurs ... cues get mixed up.

Humans use a lot of visual cues in our communication. They're not present online and this means badly mixed messages.

The fact that we are hidden behind a partial cloak of annonymity, as the author states, also effects how things are said.

Trolls, in the F2F world, are just rude people: We walk away from them. Online, we tend to respond to the troll leaving flame wars that just wouldn't happen in the F2F world. Plus, it is harder to troll in the F2F world as you are looking at the other: That look (and being looked at) itself acts as a brake for most people.

There's also a balance between active & passive voice in online comments. Passive voice (The pen was placed...) is too common and active (I put the pen ...) is not common enough. Pro-writers have the skill to keep the two in balance, we non-pros generally speaking do not. Unbalanced voice causes its own communication problems.

4:36 AM, March 07, 2006  
Blogger Mercurior said...

i run a forum board, and i know how hard it is to get people to make non rude comments, my board has an emotional content, its about the childfree, we dont particularly want our own kids, but we do object to out of control kids and we dont object to well behaved kids. there are a lot of boards about and there are literally hundreds of flame wars over this emotional subject. some are anonymous commentors,which can be good in itself a differing view point so long as its reasonably framed and i usually reply to the comment in a fair mind, i dont sink to the rude/crude posters level. and i make sure i put warnings on saying its my decision to delete or not delete a comment, as this is my board and i can do what i want.

5:00 AM, March 07, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Boiled down, it is simple. Some people---identified or anonymous---act like jackasses online. Rude, snotty, etc.

Other people are wonderful.

What I have always found ironic is that the snide and snotty posters seem the most sensitive to attacks on their own persona---to things said in response to their nonsense. But that is because such people are, at their core, bullies.

As one poster wrote, this may be the cost of free expression.

9:54 AM, March 07, 2006  
Blogger Jonathan said...

Any other suggestions for how to keep comments civil are welcome.

My 2c worth, based on some experience administering a group blog (including, before I learned better, a lot of time wasted arguing with jerks):

-Delete over-the-line comments immediately, to eliminate the payoff for uncivil commenting. Commenters want exposure. Don't let them have it unless they behave. There is no harm in deleting a comment and explaining why (or even without explaining). Serious commenters will get the message and improve their behavior. If they argue about being asked to be polite (e.g., "I don't see why I shouldn't belittle obvious fools like XXXX"), delete them again. You don't need them around.

-Avoid public arguments about your rules. (What kind of person argues about the commenting rules on someone else's blog?)

-With trolls who start flame wars to drive traffic to their sites, you can stop the offending behavior cold by editing their URLs -- e.g., change the URL for a lefty blog to (I am assuming that Blogger admins can edit other people's comments. If not, just delete.)

-Requiring a Blogger identity might help but I don't think it would solve the problem. Althouse still gets destructive comments on some threads. I think the main variable is who links to your post. If it's a particularly rude crowd, like the Kos bloggers, you are going to get uncivil comments no matter what you do. Delete them without hesitation and move on (no pun intended).

10:15 AM, March 07, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've been on several forums where I've requested that folks try to be more civil to each other. In every case, this has resulted in a virulent flame war against me, where I am outed as a "baby," "over sensitive," "don't belong on the Internet," etc. There seem to be a lot of folks that think that whatever is said on the Internet doesn't matter, and don't think that the people behind the words on a screen should be treated like human beings. They are comfortable with their anonymity and prefer being able to vent their spleens over treating others with basic respect. I've learned that the fact that I represent myself online in the same way I represent myself "in real life" makes me somewhat of an oddity. As such, I no longer tolerate online environments that I would not tolerate IRL. I've also learned not to try to make things better, best to quietly leave a hostile forum to "wallow in their own crapulence."

10:57 AM, March 07, 2006  
Blogger Helen said...


Thanks for the suggestions. I especially like the one about changing the URL to is quite humorous. I do think the comments get worse when someone links to my site from a "lefty" one. These types tend to set a bad tone by using words to describe those they disagree with, such as "Shorter" or other names that imply a lack of decency and civility. Luckily, most of these types stay within their own communities and rarely link or go to other blogs so it does not happen often.

11:04 AM, March 07, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


You have, I believe, deleted comments on occasion. What caused you to delete these comments and were they generally posted by anonymous posters? I'm curious.

11:07 AM, March 07, 2006  
Blogger Helen said...


I have never deleted a comment--the only deletes would be from the commenters themselves. My personal take on obnoxious rude comments is that I tend to leave them there for all to see. My only concern is that others seemed bothered by them.

11:18 AM, March 07, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jonathan's suggestions about deletions, and about squelching rules discussions were alarming concepts for running a marketplace of ideas. Some major totalitarian leanings there.

I really wish people would choose a pseudonym - blog comments shouldn't even have an "anonymous" option - make people assign themselves some sort of identifier.

The whole disinhibition thing escapes me. I've posted in Usenet under my own name, and had knock down, drag out disputes with other posters. One of my best friends is a person I met in a newsgroup telling him he was full of crap.

11:56 AM, March 07, 2006  
Blogger Jonathan said...


I think you are confusing a number of things. First of all, I am talking about squelching abuse, not disagreement. Disagreement is fine. I am referring to abusive commenters in blog comment threads who use relentless personal attacks to attempt to impose a kind of heckler's veto by preventing discussion except on their terms (or even entirely). Second of all, free speech on public and private property are not the same things. A blog is private property and its owner is entitled to administer it as he wants. There is nothing totalitarian about this. If you don't like the policies on one blog you are free to start your own or to find another blog that is more to your liking.

My comments are based on my experience that commenters who refuse to refrain from personal attacks or who insist on publicly arguing about commenting rules (typically the same people) have been, almost without exception, obnoxious jerks whose behavior discouraged other commenters from participating. I have no obligation to provide such people a forum.

Note that I am not saying that all abusive commenters are bad people, though I think that some of them are obviously troubled individuals. Some of them are also obviously very intelligent and write things of value. The problem is that they are unable to contribute to a discussion without disrupting it. So they are welcome to contribute if they remain civil (and if they protest, as they sometimes do, that don't know what that means, that means they're not civil), but I have a very low threshold for cutting them off if they act badly.

Think of the Internet as a huge public parking lot. Imagine parking in some out-of-the-way part of the lot, no other cars around. The abusive commenter is like someone who shows up, and out of all the empty parking spots decides to park right next to you. Then he opens his door into your car, starts complaining that you are blocking his spot and won't stop arguing even if you respond to each of his complaints. In theory, because he is free to park wherever he wants, and because the arguments he makes appear rational on the surface, there is nothing wrong with his behavior. But in reality people who behave in this way generally have something wrong with them, and they will cause a lot of trouble for other people if they are allowed to.

4:25 PM, March 07, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

yeah, in person i would be hesitant to question if you really believe this insane bullshit that is printed daily on pajama poopypants meadea or do you just drink yourself into a stupor about your misgivings about selling your soul to the fascist theocrats that are ruining this country by throwing us full speed ahead into unsustainable deficits, no account treason and fraud, no congressional oversight of that treason and fraud, and all the deaths your dear leader and his fucked up administration has given the past five years

if this war is so great, put on a uniform to back up your words with actions, you chickenshit chickenhawks

fuck you all with extreme prejudice and malice beforethought

10:47 AM, March 08, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


I'm not confusing anything. I understand your point, but couldn't agree less.

The distinction between public and private fora is a legal one, not an ethical one. The PRINCIPLES of what constitute a real marketplace of ideas apply equally to both public and private venues. If you create a forum, then squelch some ideas or discussions, the fact that you have a legal right to do so doesn't make you any less of a hypocrit. Either your mind, and by extension, your forum, are open to ideas, or they are not, in which case, your forum will inevitably decay into an echo chamber. Once you start to censor, it's very difficult to stop.

As to abusive commenters, I'm sorry, but there's no other way to put this - don't be such a wuss. Years of Usenet experience have taught me that participants of any emotional and intellectual strength are undeterred, and have many options for dealing with abuse. Some abusers are ignored - anyone who's familiar with Usenet has heard the admonition "don't feed the trolls." Abusers thrive on attention, and you can starve them out. Anyone with reasonable wit can also easily put them in their place. Some combintation of these two approaches will almost always do the trick. As for people who don't participate because of such things, hey, life is rough, cowboy up and deal with it. To propose that people shouldn't have to deal with it is no different than saying that Muslims shouldn't have to deal with knowing those cartoons exist - both are PC whining. If you never encounter something offensive, you're either totally apathetic, or you're intellectually sitting out life on the bench.

12:50 PM, March 08, 2006  
Blogger Jonathan said...


No hypocrisy here. I don't claim to allow anybody to write anything on my blog. I don't know where you got the idea that a marketplace of ideas is required to tolerate uncivil behavior that makes it difficult for everyone other than the disruptive parties to communicate. If I own the marketplace I get to set the rules. Don't like my rules? Set up your own marketplace. If someone disrupts a lecture by heckling it's not censorship to ask him to leave. He is trying to censor the lecturer. If someone visits your home as a guest, shouts over other guests' conversations and complains when you ask him to be considerate, there is nothing wrong with asking him to leave. He is censoring your other guests' communication. Throwing out the jerks makes it possible for everybody else to communicate, and in no way prevents the jerks from participating too -- if they stop acting like jerks.

One of the reasons why many people avoid Usenet is that the unmoderated newsgroups tend to be so taken over by insults and personal disputes that it is difficult to find real information among the noise. Blogs succeed in part because they make it more difficult for individuals with disruptive agendas to interfere with other people's communication. Telling people to "cowboy up" misses the point about how flaming crowds out meaningful communication and drives off many people who have something to contribute. My skin is plenty thick and I have no problem ignoring jerks, but it is clear to me that many commenters on my blog are repelled by flaming. It is also clear that many other commenters are unable to resist the temptation to argue with the jerks, so that any thread in which jerks are tolerated quickly gets diverted in whatever direction the jerks take it. If you don't mind such discussions you can continue to participate on Usenet or set up your own blog. However, it's no reason to insist that someone else's blog adhere to the standards of unmoderated Usenet forums, which you arbitrarily assert to be universal standards. Telling me that I'm a hypocrite or have totalitarian tendencies because I don't do things your way is a laughably weak argument in a world where anyone can set up his own blog at the cost of a few minutes' time.

2:30 PM, March 08, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

>I happen to be one of those people who is not terribly afraid of conflict. If I saw you in person and we were having a discussion, I would say the same things to you in person that I would online<
Alas all too many folks are not able to disagree without being disagreeable. Many see disagreement as a green light for being verbally abusive.

I also have a very direct style; even face to face, this does rub up a few the wrong way, that’s something I’m prepared to live with rather than accommodate my style of interaction around a particularly sensitive minority (golly gosh, how politically topical!). I find it extremely easy to pick up the tone of ‘ill will or ‘good will’ with folks with whom I’m having a discussion, regardless of whether I agree or disagree on the substantive matters in question.

>Any other suggestions for how to keep comments civil are welcome. Thanks<
Allowing comments only from users who registered under a verified e-mail addresses. Additionally insisting that folks register under their real name does help a great deal in engendering good manners; possibly for 2 reasons – firstly yobs and boors may be less inclined to register and secondly, the mask of anonymity seems to embolden some folks – as it happens I see this as indicative of lack of moral fibre…but I’m digressing.

All these measures of course have their downside, and I’m not familiar with how well the functionality of the Blogger application supports them. In the forum I created and ran for 3 yrs I also did not allow registration under hotmail and other such popular ‘throw away’ e-mail domains. The other option is to get into tight moderation – personally, I think this a waste of time and energy and it cuts against my natural classically liberal inclinations.

It may be wise to make clear that you insist that folks avoid ad hominems – play the ‘ball’ and not the man (or woman) and insist on civility. There is no reason one cannot disagree vehermently, yet maintain decorum and basic civility.

Reading reams of bloviating, bilious venom is to me, not particularly rewarding in terms of noise to signal ratio, and I am disinclined to re visit on line places where this is the norm. I have no doubt that many others feel this way.

4:19 AM, March 09, 2006  
Blogger Jonathan said...

Nick wrote:
The other option is to get into tight moderation – personally, I think this a waste of time and energy and it cuts against my natural classically liberal inclinations.

At some level of traffic it becomes excessively burdensome to police comment threads even if you want to.

11:06 AM, March 09, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Another point that occurred to me; Lack of civility in anonymous on-line discussion reminds me very much of objectionable drunks.

The anonymity strips away social veneer rather like alcohol and the real person is revealed.

Booze and the on-line medium are sort of truth drugs for character.

Perhaps Helen could use this in her practice to reveal true character - "Please have this double vodka and partake in this on-line discussion."

Anyway, down here in the arse end of Africa, the sun is well past the yard-arm; time for a glass of the Fairest Cape's nectar. In this instance a deep maroon Pinotage with notable legs; cheers!

11:45 AM, March 09, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

No hypocrisy here. I don't claim to allow anybody to write anything on my blog.

But, by even having a blog, there is an implied claim that discussion yields insight, which is at the heart of the concept of free speech. Inevitably, you end up with just an echo chamber for your own ideas, because you control the ideas expressed. A closed forum is not a forum; it's a star chamber.

I don't know where you got the idea that a marketplace of ideas is required to tolerate uncivil behavior.

By nature it is. In a free commodities market, one is free to sell rotten food, provided others can recognize it as such. The same goes for the idea market. The value of one's ideas is not a function of their ability to express them well.

that makes it difficult for everyone other than the disruptive parties to communicate. .

Therein lies the key. Your examples all revolve around the SPOKEN word. With the WRITTEN word, it's different. In a written forum, no one can drown anyone else out. People are free to ignore what they don't want to read, without interfering with their reading what they DO want.

If I own the marketplace I get to set the rules. Don't like my rules? Set up your own marketplace..

Exile as a solution for dissent. Nah, no totalitarian leanings there.

One of the reasons why many people avoid Usenet is that the unmoderated newsgroups tend to be so taken over by insults and personal disputes that it is difficult to find real information among the noise. .

Not for astute individuals. The thread organization makes it very easy to ignore not only the jerks, but responses to them. There is a great deal of information in Usenet, including useful information not available in moderated venues.

Telling people to "cowboy up" misses the point about how flaming crowds out meaningful communication and drives off many people who have something to contribute. My skin is plenty thick and I have no problem ignoring jerks, but it is clear to me that many commenters on my blog are repelled by flaming. .

Then they need to grow up. It's been my observation that people who are discouraged from participation by flamers care WAY too much about what other people think of them to truly be independent thinkers.

It is also clear that many other commenters are unable to resist the temptation to argue with the jerks, so that any thread in which jerks are tolerated quickly gets diverted in whatever direction the jerks take it..

Only if the non-jerks lack the intellectual wherewithal to prevent it.

Telling me that I'm a hypocrite or have totalitarian tendencies because I don't do things your way is a laughably weak argument in a world where anyone can set up his own blog at the cost of a few minutes' time. .

What's a laughably weak argument is claiming that the the ability to go elsewhere in any way impacts the objective nature of your policies or positions. The hypocracy and totalitarian leanings comment stems not so much from your advocacy for moderated forums as your approval for making discussions of such rules off limits. One has to ask, what are you so afraid of - are you so lacking in conviction that if you allow participants to comment on your rules, you'll experience a compulsion to change them? When you made this point, you immediately cancelled out any leg you had to stand on with the distuptive jerks issue. By your original post (I notice you've conveniently avoided mentioning your original statement about discussions of the rules, hmmmmm) a person offering PERFECTLY CIVIL, WELL REASONED criticism of your policies would be barred. THAT is the essence of totalitarianism. You've essentially put forth your opinion on how a forum should be run, and then rejected any dissent or disagreement.
The complete irony of all this is that the growth of the blogosphere is a response to the private club nature of the mainstream media. Since your response to everything is "go start your own blog" I guess my response to your position should be "if that's what you want, go publish a printed newspaper." Hey, it's your right to set up your blog however you want, just like it's the right of the KKK to use the web to advance their cause - but it doesn't make it right.

12:48 PM, March 09, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just delete comments that are unacceptable and without any relevance to the discussion, like the one here at 9:55p. Not much point in letting something like that live. I wouldn't participate for long in a face to face conversation when the talk was rude and foul, why do it online? If your point is a valid one, you can get it across without the profanity. The foulmouthed and rude usually don't have much of a point to make anyway.

Rudeness on blogs is similar to rudeness on the road. If bumped into accidently on the sidewalk, I doubt that most people would flip off the bumper. But on the road, and the web, it's easier to do it with limited consequence.

It's called common courtesy, and we could all pratice more of it these days.

3:11 PM, March 09, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

.I just delete comments that are unacceptable and without any relevance to the discussion, like the one here at 9:55p.

I had to scroll up and find it, because I certainly didn't waste any synapses remembering it. If you did, I feel sorry for you that you don't have anything better to fill your memory with.
There, I read it. Oh, yes, I'm dying from exposure to those, those.....WORDS!
Yeah, someone demonstrated their own poor communication skills, so what. I ignored it once, I'll forget it again, it really doesn't affect me. If it affects you, that's a personal problem, and something you need to work on.

Not much point in letting something like that live.

Yes, let's please have a "final solution" for everyone with poor personal expression skills. And then, who should we kill next, because you know it's like eating potato chips.

I wouldn't participate for long in a face to face conversation when the talk was rude and foul, why do it online?

No one is asking you to. Online, several conversations, including a few foul one sided ones, can occupy the same space at the same time. My WRITTEN words in no way interfere with anyone's ability to read your WRITTEN words. With SPOKEN communications, it's time dependent, and thus a zero sum game, but the WRITTEN word is not like that. All the analogies to spoken conversation are complete fallacies.

If your point is a valid one, you can get it across without the profanity. The foulmouthed and rude usually don't have much of a point to make anyway.

That's a naive and inexperienced POV. I've learned in life that the validity of a person's point is not a function of their ability to express it. Con men are some of the most verbally agile and eloquent people on the planet. A good saleman does not a good product make. If you spend enough time in a truly open forum, you will eventually see a foul-mouthed jerk come up with a valuable insight. The media is not the message.

Rudeness on blogs is similar to rudeness on the road.

And exactly how many peopl are killed or maimed each year by "blog rage?" This is what is so infuriating about your position - people get KILLED by road rage, but what does it really cost you or anyone else to ignore rudeness or flaming on the net? Absolutely nothing, and to suggest otherwise is to imply that your feelings are somehow of world shattering importance. That kind of arrogance is just astounding.

It's called common courtesy, and we could all pratice more of it these days.

Including to those who don't understand it. Restricting posting is just elitist arrogance. If you're REALLY better than the foul mouthed jerk, prove it by not letting him dictate what you do.

12:38 PM, March 10, 2006  
Blogger Jonathan said...

If you're REALLY better than the foul mouthed jerk, prove it by not letting him dictate what you do.

Yeah. Instead you should let some other guy who mischaracterizes your arguments, insists his way is the one true way and casually suggests you have totalitarian leanings dictate what you do.

1:00 PM, March 10, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Nice petulant outburst, but how about something with substance.
You're welcome to point out what I've mischaracterized. The only one insisting his way is the one true way is you, since you are the one who believes in suppressing competing or conflicting ideas. You're the one who would not allow his rules to be questioned or discussed, even politely, and whose answer to those who disagree is "my way or the highway" i.e. if you don't like make your own blog.

Through many years in Usenet I demonstrated my ability to ignore or decisively shame a foul mouthed jerk. You're the one who allows them to turn you into a dictator in your own little patch.

So, your response becomes little more than the name-calling of the flamer, minus the profanity. You're welcome to address my points, such as the clear differences between the spoken and written word. but apparently unwilling or unable. I guess now I see why you feel the need to limit discussion so.

1:29 PM, March 13, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, it's amazing how intolerant everyone else is.

I think that I've made my argument clearly, and clearly you don't accept it. Other readers are welcome to judge for themselves.

6:50 PM, March 13, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

No, you haven't made your case.

You've made fallacious comparisons to disruption in SPOKEN conversation, which I've rebutted, and you've not reinforced. I've addressed each and every one of your points, and you've responded with what amounts to name calling. If that's your idea of supporting an assertion, well, like I said, the reason for your desire to control the conversation is obvious.

You've also made NO attempt to defend your policy of not allowing ANY discussion of a forum's policies within the forum. Have you now withdrawn that position from consideration, or are you just at a loss to defend it?

11:45 AM, March 14, 2006  
Blogger Peter Vajda said...

Blogging, Incivility and Negativity

Social scientists, socioeconomists, and social psychologists are increasingly pointing to the fact that the social mood in the United States, and across the world’s culture and civilization is turning bad and that overall social mood is going to get a lot worse before improving. Research graphs and diagrams, such as the Elliot Wave Principle, underscore the finding that there is a natural ebb and flow of social mood (positive vs. negative) and that darker times, socially and politically, lie ahead of us, creating increased tension and negativity. Nowhere is this negative mood more evident than in the blogosphere where incivility, disrespect, meanness, bullying, and demeaning behavior rule the day, and the posts. What is it that accounts for this negativity among bloggers and what can be done to perhaps soothe and diminish their high degree of vitriol, rancor, meanness, incivility and disrespect?

I've followed the negativity of blog discussions mainly from the perspective of being
curious about the nature of the interactions where the behaviors are as interesting, if not more so, than the content.

There’s no question passion drives many a blogger’s interactions. Unfortunately, passion is often used as an “excuse” (it’s never a “reason”) to treat another blogger disrespectfully or in an uncivil manner.

Curiously enough, research also points to increases in the number of heart attacks, cancer incidents, obesity rates, diabetes, suicides, spousal abuse incidents, etc. What’s the connection?

Whether it’s an increase in incivility or in life-threatening illness and disease, these statistics do not mean that I have to engage in anti-social or self-destructive behavior.

I can choose what behaviors support me to live a healthy lifestyle and which don't. The
same reasoning is true for whether I choose to be civil or uncivil, respectful or disrespectful, hurtful and harmful or compassionate and understanding in my
relationships and interactions, on blogs, that is, in how I choose to show up in the world.

Shakespeare said, "An event is neither good nor bad, only thinking makes it so." So, why is one’s "thinking" so negative? What belief systems, mental models of the world and people in the world, assumptions, misconceptions, misperceptions does one have hard-wired into their brain that bring one to reactivity, to negativity in the face of just, well, “words”?

So, with respect to how I show up in the blogosphere, the bottom line is the degree to which I am "conscious" — whether I am consciously aware of “how I am” and “who I am” while blogging, and relating to others in a blog community, or am I “unconscious”, being reactive, with no conscious thought of how I am behaving.

In our current culture in the U.S. where most folks are obsessed with ego needs for control, recognition and security, it's no wonder that most folks' thoughts are "killing thoughts" as opposed to "healing thoughts." The mantra underlying most of our interactions and interrelationships is: “It’s all about me! Out of my way!”

Moreover, in a culture where many folks gain their sense of identity ("who I am") from a direct association with their "knowledge and information" (the database in their brain), it's no surprise that much of the incivility and reactivity on blogs comes from the perspective that: "When you disagree with my information, well, you disagree with me", and because such disagreement is just too much of a hit to many folks' egos, they react (fight, as opposed to flee or freeze). Agreeing to disagree and engaging in constructive dialogue are fast becoming a lost art forms in Western culture.

When folks are "unconscious" of “how they are” and “who they are”, when folks are unable or unwilling to engage in self-reflection, their tendency is to associate and behave with a herd mentality — witness the vitriol, the high-pitch ever-escalating level of disrespect, sarcasm (in the guise of "humor"), mocking, bullying, that is taking the place on blogs.

Much of the negative and disrespectful exchanges in blogs has to do with how one relates to another human being. Life is relationship — the manner in which one chooses to, consciously or unconsciously, relate to, "meet", "see" and accept another person. What’s happening in the blogosphere is a manifestation of a blogger’s internal conflict that manifests as a failure to relate to another individual in an accepting, compassionate, respectful manner that transcends simple "exchange of knowledge and information."

So, while the research is what it is, that does not mean one cannot consciously choose how one wants to be in relationship, is dialogue, in conversation when blogging.

So, how does one become more conscious of one’s blogging behaviors? How does one become conscious of what’s driving one’s negative blogging behavior? By consciously considering what’s underneath one’s need to be uncivil, mean, disrespectful, and demeaning.

There are two underlying drivers for much of the negative interactions on blogs. These two drivers are characterized as: (1) "It's not about the information or content”, and (2) "It's all about the information or content."

1. It's not about the content

From this perspective, what is occurring is the need for an individual blogger to resort to a verbally abusive and bullying approach in an effort to make a "connection" with another person. For other bloggers, the need is to first engage, and then disengage, then engage and disengage, as in a "love-hate" relationship, in order to stay in the game.

In the arena of psychodynamics or ego psychology, this both of these behaviors are referred to as "negative merging." In some relationships, the only way two people can "merge" or have any semblance of “connectivity” (e.g., mental, emotional,, psychological, social, etc.) is by fighting or arguing. Without the fighting or arguing, there would be no connectivity, no relating. Thus, the need to bully, argue, demean, find fault, nit-pick, etc., supports a blogger top feel engaged and “merged.” It gives the blogger a sense of “belonging”, being psychologically and emotionally connected. It really
has nothing to do with the "information" being discussed or exchanged.

Rather, the negative and uncivil behavior is about connecting and needing to feel "seen" and "heard", in other words, to feel that the blogger is actually “somebody” as opposed to being a “nobody.” Unless the blogger feels they are somebody, they feel they have no sense of value or worth. The only downside is that playing out of this need to be “seen” comes from a deeper place of anger, fear and negativity.

In “negatively merged” relationships, real and true, mature, heartfelt acceptance, approval, and satisfaction are lacking. So, the only way the two or more bloggers can experience any “false” connection at all is from this place of negative engagement, often it's in the form of poking, being disrespectful, being uncivil, nit-picking, finding fault, etc. .

In “negative-merged” relationships, such back-and-forth behavior, and childish emotional acting out, becomes the sole source of contact between bloggers. The bottom line is that in negative-merged relationships, negative contact is better than no
contact at all.

So content aside, two or more such bloggers are no different than a couple who, lacking any real heartfelt, mature, adult-level connectivity, resort to arguing and fighting over how to stack the dishes in the dishwasher, fold the laundry, or vacuum the car, or slice the turkey. At the end of the day, for negatively merged bloggers, it's never really about the "content". It's about the need to be "seen" and connect when there's no true feeling of connectedness.

Until and unless a “negative-merged” inclined blogger expands their awareness and explores what's really "underneath" their need to be negative, uncivil and disrespectful, (i.e., by consciously exploring their limiting self-images, beliefs, preconceptions, "hard wiring" about how they view their self vis-à-vis being in the world and relating to others), there's probably never going to be any change or transformation of that blogger’s behavior. So, they'll fight, lick their wounds, go away and come back to fight another day on another blog, always at another's throat, always argumentative, bickering, poking, criticizing. Why? It's the only way they know how to "connect."

2. Content is everything.

The ego-personality is driven by one's Inner Judge and Critic, the inner voice that continually creates drama and upset in our lives, that never allows us to truly feel at peace with ourselves. The inner judge and critic is driven by three major ego needs: control, security and recognition.

Driven consistently and relentlessly by these three needs, many of us derive our identity, that is, "who I think I am", and "who I take myself to be" from external things, as opposed to experiencing ourselves with integrity and authenticity that arises from being in touch with our Inner Nature, our True and Real Self, from what’s "inside".

One of the externals from which people gain a sense of their identify is their “information.” For these folks, their mantra is "I am my information." In other words, my identity, who I am, is defined on what I have in my brain, my database. I live in my mind, and my mind defines me as a person.

Coming from this mental place, then, in a blogging environment, what happens when someone disagrees with an “information identity” blogger, is that the “information identity” blogger is unable and unwilling to see the other’s response as a simple perspective, or point of view, or as just “different from me.” Rather, the “information identity” blogger has a need to react, to become defensive and critical and take the other’s information as a personal affront and as a personal and “attack on me.”

In our culture of right vs. wrong, good vs. bad, win vs. lose, me vs. you, for many bloggers there is little to no room for acceptance of differences, i.e., "different information". Rather, there’s more of a need for many bloggers to engage in some type of escalating “ad hominem” attack so that the “information identity” blogger can survive, live, and not lose their identity. The “information identity” blogger survives by meeting their need to “be right" in some way, shape or form.

And so when these “information identity” bloggers feel attacked because another blogger has presented "different information", or disagreed with them, they emotionally feel out of control, insecure, and unrecognized, unseen. Their internal, unconscious reaction is: "My God, I have no identity if my information is "wrong'. I need to fight back and save my self.”

In this state of (often unconscious) reactivity characterized by anger, fear, worry, resentment, defensiveness, feeling "small", unseen, invisible, unrecognized, unappreciated, being resistant, defensive and agitated, and feeling a loss of control, recognition or emotional security, some bloggers act out so they can feel and see themselves as big, large, as “somebody” with an identity.

”Information identity” bloggers might be surprised if they were to explore why they need to act out and sting, poke, demean and bully others, why they need to attack, defend and counter-attack, why they are so caught up in identifying with "my information."

What happens in the blogosphere is really no different from what happens between and among individuals and couples every day, at work, at home and at play, i.e., occurrences of the same behaviors that manifest when folks allow their ego-personalities and "comparative-judgmental minds" to get in the way of a healthy relationship, a healthy dialogue, a healthy interaction. The dynamic here with the “information identity: blogger, is that they are being by their need for control, recognition and security as opposed to allowing their self to coming from one's inner plane where one can be perfectly comfortable with who one is and where one is without needing to be right and without depending on one’s information as the source of who they are.

The poking, the disrespect, the vitriol and incivility are all about resistance, denial and projecting. It's all about not being "consciously conscious of "Who I am" and "How I am" in relationship; so the negativity comes from one's locking on to cruise control, being "unconscious" and simply reacting to everything happening "outside". It's about needing to look "outside" for what's lacking "inside."

While some may view ad hominem attacks, rudeness, disrespect, poking, bullying and negative behaviors as "common" in today’s discussions and relationships, they are not, neither for children nor for adults, and sometimes, in the blogosphere, it's hard to tell the difference. Reactive elements cause mental, emotional and even physical pain, and discomfort and for the actual and lurking "ringside" participants and observers, even though they may not even be aware of it. The discord does take a toll, one way or another.

Where some lurkers would honestly and sincerely like to offer their perspectives in a safe environment, they are often wary of doing so as they don’t want to come up against bloggers whose need is to "take it personally" and who react to "different" takes and information in a negative, poking, rejecting manner. It’s the “information identity” bloggers who make many blogs unsafe for so many others who have worthy contributions to make.

So, The negativity is an attempt to fill this hole of deficiency, thinking that spending time and energy being critical, judgmental, demeaning and disrespectful of others will somehow make me feel "better" at the expense of those who I am stepping on and over in my attempts to get to the top of some ladder (financial, social professional, etc.) that will make me feel like "somebody."

So, what can bloggers do to ensure a more inclusive, safe, mutually-respective container for adult-adult dialogue and reduce the intense degree of negativity that permeates so much of the blogosphere?

Perhaps bloggers can envision and then act to create an environment where one can
notice, accept and appreciate the uniqueness of another blogger’s perspective
without automatically jumping on the "me vs. you", "right vs. wrong", "good vs. bad"
"expert vs. novice", “intelligent vs. stupid” continuum.

Perhaps bloggers can take some time to move out of their intellectual zip code of
”It’s all about what I know.” and explore the perhaps, more foreign, landscape of non-violent communication to enhance the quality of some of their interactions, even approaching discussions with the curiosity of a “beginner’s mind”, a neutral mind.

Perhaps bloggers can take a deep breath, sense into their bodies and experience their feelings and emotions, before responding to a post and consciously ask themselves, “Why would a reasonable, rational, decent person like me consciously choose to be disrespectful, uncivil and harm another person simply because their "information" is different from my "information."

Gandhi said, “Be the change you want to see.” So, if you are engaging in uncivil, disrespectful, demeaning behaviors as a blogger, don’t wait for others to change their tone and tenor. It starts with you.

As Rumi says, "Out beyond right doing and wrong doing, there is a field; I'll meet you there." Come from that place in your blogs and interact from that part of yourself that is respectful, accepting, compassionate, empathic, and inclusive.

Bloggers can choose to play in that field with their colleagues; or they can choose to
create and fight in a battlefield of words, of ego, hostility and lost identity. One brings happiness, collegiality, contentment and well-being; the other brings pain and suffering, mentally, emotionally, physically, socially, and spiritually.

Incivility and negativity are all about "resistance" to someone or something “out there” with which one feels uncomfortable. Incivility and negativity are all about being "unconscious” of how one is in relationship. Incivility and negativity are all about the ego’s need for control, recognition and security and being unwilling to go “inside” and explore why one needs to hurt, be verbally abusive, and disrespect another. Incivility and negativity are largely about the mantras: “I’d rather be right than happy." Or, "I have to be somebody at the expense of being seen as a nobody."

Life, after all, is choices. Do I choose to be reactive, hurtful, negative and uncivil? Why? Really, really, really, why?

(c) 2006, Peter Vajda, Ph.D., C.P.C.

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