Ask Nicole: What do I do about ignorant Internet commenters?

Dear Nicole:

How snarky can I be on social media? My wife tells me to dial it back, while my friends are encouraging me to snark away.

— Signed, That Guy

Here’s the thing, That Guy. We all kind of want to be you. We wish we could say the snarky things you are saying. We silently cheer for you. Maybe some of us are annoyed by you at times, but either way, you make Facebook and other social media a more interesting place.

Maybe in talking with your wife, you can find out what she finds a bit offensive. Maybe you are staunchly child-free, for example, and leave some unkind posts on your friends’ baby photos. If she can give you specific things she’d like you to dial back, I say you should do your best and comply. She has to be associated with you after all.

Otherwise, keep being snarky. It sounds like you understand the line of “mean” and are avoiding that, so carry on while I laugh and probably wished I said what you just did.

Dear Nicole:

What can I do about Internet trolls? I get so mad when I see people post ignorant and hurtful statements, especially when it is morons who do nothing with their lives but relish attacking people who actually get things done. Is there a polite way to point out someone’s being a jerkball without descending to their level?

— Former Mean Girl in Bar Harbor

Not sure if you’ve ever been bullied, FMG, but the surefire way to add fuel to a fire is to engage with them. Also, you’ll see with the letter above, some people are just trying to be funny versus downright mean.

If you can rule out snarky silliness, I have found three tactics helpful in social media for the meanies:

  1. Block people. They don’t need to know you are blocking them, but if seeing something from them upsets you, unlike in real life, you have every right to edit them from your online life.
  2. Ignore them. I engaged with an online troll two months ago. All he did was keep writing back. I stopped writing to him and, while he thought he had “won,” I actually did since I’m not ever going to talk to him again.
  3. Private message them. When I went to school to be a teacher, we were taught if you need to reprimand, to do so as privately as possible. Nothing makes the kid act like a classroom martyr like yelling at them in front of their peers. The online equivalent of a private reprimand is a private message. They may listen and they may not, but at least their performance is taken out of the equation.

Regardless of which of these methods speaks more to you, in the end it is up to people to be responsible for their actions. Let’s hope the “most people are inherently good” idea shows itself in this case. Either way, exercise your right to have positive people in your online circle. That’s part of the beauty of having one.



Nicole Ouellette

Nicole Ouellette

When Nicole isn't giving advice she's completely unqualified to give, she runs an Internet marketing company in Bar Harbor, where she lives with her husband Derrick and their short dog Gidget. She loves young adult novels, cooking and talking French to anyone who'll talk back. [email protected]

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