A Spot of Advice for Commenters in the Blogosphere

Dear commenters on the internet,

The internet is full of wonderful things and mountains upon mountains of articles that you can read and learn from. No matter who you are, you can always find something that will suit your personal preferences. However, you will also find many things that will take you outside of your comfort zone. To be prudent, therefore, you should think before you post responses.

This advice is particularly important when you have no experience in the topic being discussed. That is not to say that you should never engage in conversations that are difficult for you, but sometimes the best involvement is silence. For example, say you stumble across a piece of writing on sex workers. If you are not a sex worker, then perhaps you should not tell one what they should be feeling in any particular situation. You should be listening. You should be learning. Not all discussions need your voice and you are benefiting no one when you explode without thinking, including yourself.

For instance, I like to explore and read about trans issues since they come up frequently in my blog circles. However, being a cisgendered person with no trans friends, all of my experience with the topic comes from the internet. Sometimes what I see inspires confusion and knee-jerk reactions from myself. However, part of understanding my privileges comes from my ability to step back and allow myself time to absorb, digest and analyse what I have just read.
Sometimes, even with time, you may never truly understand a subject. Since my experience with trans issues has not evolved past the internet, I can only intellectualize the concepts. Since I can only intellectualize them, the anger and rage that is expressed by trans people is understandable to me only by comparing it to my own anger and rage. However, the situations are not the same. I cannot necessarily juxtapose my lessons onto their lives.

So the lesson is that sometimes it is better just to shut up and be quiet. You don’t always have to add to the discussion. You don’t always have to understand. It isn’t always about you. Sometimes you are not and will never be a part of someone’s story. Maybe your righteous indignation is an opportunity to educate yourself rather than to “teach” others.

Sincerely,

A blog reader who is really damn sick of seeing people go utterly stark raving mad in comment threads on things that they know nothing about