I was asked by a reader who was bothered by a response to her comment by another commenter:
>>how do you deal with people who disagree with you online? do you get a lot of personal emails where people ‘fight’ with you
about your views on things?<<
The truth is that I’ve been very fortunate – I have a very high quality blog audience. I’ve occasionally been attacked personally and/or had strong aspersions cast on my views, but I rarely have people who email me privately to discuss their issues. They generally post a scathing comment under an email address contrived to protect their anonymity (eg someone@gmail) and that’s it. Even that’s pretty minimal.
I don’t expect everyone to agree with me. My positions on some issues have shifted over time, and if I don’t even agree with my past self sometimes! That being said, there have definitely times that I’ve felt very hurt and judged by things that have been written, and I’ve had to take a break from posting in order to regrow my emotional skin – I try not to take things personally but I think it’s natural to feel hurt when people say unkind things to/about you. People too easily forget that behind every computer screen is a person with feelings, and I try to remember this about others as I hope they will keep that in mind when reading what I write.
There are those who would say that once you put your views in the public domain, you have to accept that people are going to disagree with you. Kind of like, “If you can’t take the heat, get out of the kitchen.” As I said, I expect that some people will disagree but to attack someone isn’t okay, even if they share their positions publicly. Being respectful of others may be even more important in an online venue than in person, since online things are so easily misconstrued.
I think one thing that has helped me avoid negativity here is that I try to avoid controversy, though this is a highly recommended tactic to build a blog audience. It might be a lot more interesting for people but I don’t think the world needs more negativity and hostility. This makes it tricky for me to express opinions that I feel strongly about that are going to bother some people, so it’s a fine line that I have to walk. But it also means that those who are quick to sling arrows don’t usually hang around here.
I try hard to give people the benefit of the doubt, to assume that even if something sounded harsh that perhaps I misread the tone, or that perhaps the person doesn’t have great communication skills but didn’t mean any harm. This and some time and space from the issue at hand usually help me regain perspective. And sometimes people who commented harshly later wrote to apologize for expressing themselves inelegantly, which is always a nice bonus!