10 comments on “A New Standard of Internet Civility: Part One: Arguing

  1. You’re absolutely right, of course. I think that Carnegie’s techniques often have the occasional tendency to suppress legitimate differences of opinion for the sake of harmony, but you can’t beat him as a general guidebook for basic middle-America-type decency. And civil disagreement, at its best, polishes arguments rather than diluting them.

    One of the things I’ve always wondered about is if anonymity isn’t the biggest enemy of online civility. I think that people are much douchier if they can hide behind a pseudonym. I’d also wager that it’s much easier to be a jerk to “Armchair Despot”, represented by an avatar of a flashing animation of Ghengis Khan, than it is to be a jerk to “Michael Beck,” represented by a photo of me. One of the reasons that I don’t like the idea of a blog for me is that when I do occasionally post something substantive on facebook, I know that the people commenting on it will be relatively civil because they either know each other or at least know me.

    Of course, some spaces legitimately demand anonymity (AA for instance…laid out in the 1930s’ other great self-help tome, The Big Book), but sports sites or news sites or gaming sites? I think we can and should all be our public selves on those.

  2. Good advice.

    I’m in the midst of raising very small children, and I notice stark parallels between behavior on the web and that of young kids who just don’t have experience interacting with other people.

    I wonder how much of it is generational (or even “virtual generational”?), and whether it will be one of those cyclical things where the kids grow up and say “Man, I was such a jerk on the internet. I’m better now,” but by then there’s already a new crop of green young asshats who just don’t know how to play nice.

    Maybe we need to seriously consider the return of etiquette classes in public schools and, as parents, make a specific effort to teach our children social-internet-awareness.

  3. I’m sure it was just an oversight (I myself make them all the time) but there’s a slight error in your second last paragraph. It’s unlike the high standards you normally keep, so I knew you’d want to correct it as soon as possible. Keep up the good work!

  4. I think you underestimate just how many people in blog comments and forums are posting for the sole purpose of being confrontational to get a rise out of people, whether they believe what they’re saying or not. The ratio of trolls to worthwhile contributors on the internet is increasing on a daily basis. You will never “win them over”. They will never say “yes”. As soon as they stop getting the negative attention they crave, they will move on to the next topic. It’s a trap, the only way to win is not to play.

  5. You wrote part of your article incorrectly. “you’ve may have”. You’re a monster! I really enjoy your opinions however.

  6. Well put, Justin (and Dale)!

    I completely agree with Michael that there is a direct correlation between anonymity and douchebaggery. It’s for this reason that Joystiq’s own fan group “The JPAG” is the only gaming forum I bother to post on. Being hosted on Facebook forces you to see the names and often the faces of those who you’re talking with and civility definitely seems to benefit from it.

  7. Beck,

    I cannot imagine why I do not yet have an animated Genghis Khan avatar. That you for illuminating a need I never knew I had.

    PS – You misspelled “Genghis” and for that I hate you and your ass-face.


    +1 internets to you, good sir. I sometimes find myself feeling oddly antagonistic on the internet, but only when I expect the same in return… it depends what corner of the internet I may be in at the time. This makes me hate me.

    Thanks for a thought provoking post. 🙂


    I’m sorry I said you had an ass-face. I must admit I had to Google the name myself to ensure proper spelling, and even then the variations were confusing. Seriously, eff Mongolian warlords for the strain they have put on our friendship. I hope you can forgive me my malproductive comment and misguided attempt at humor.

    Please accept this video with my humblest apologies: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KaPqUMkoB4U

  8. On second thought, Justin, if you don’t think Beck would find my comment amusing please feel free to delete the hell out of it. It’s late and my funny might be defective.

  9. Pingback: A New Standard of Internet Civility: Part Two: Loving Your Audience « McElroy Vs. The Internet

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