When I wrote last week's blog post, about why antifeminism ought to be viewed in a better light, I expected it to be controversial (although I wrote it because I thought it needed to be said, not because of any desire to 'be controversial').
However, I didn't expect it to be so opinion-splitting that it would be shared almost 250 times on Facebook and seen by thousands on Twitter. (It also got four +1s on Google Plus, so it was probably trending there too.)
This led to tweets from people on both sides of the debate, but by far the most vocal were those who opposed me. That was okay, because I had accounted for it, but I've had friends who have written things as simple as a Facebook status and fallen under a barrage of 'internet hate'.
So, whether you're a fellow blogger, a standard Facebook or Twitter user, or even a politician, here are my personal tips for dealing with the anger of the internet.
- Reply if you can. You wrote it and you knew it was going to be controversial. It is your job to defend it, and while other people may help defend you, you can't rely on them. They may end up saying something you don't agree with, meaning you end up looking worse than anyone ever thought you were.
- Plan your time properly. If you're going to say something you know will be controversial, don't post it and then rush off to do something else. Leaving will allow your critics to misquote you and infer things that you didn't mean without you being able to challenge it.
- Prioritise what to reply to. Replying to a comment such as 'lol, you're such an a-hole' is not important, because that person has very little to contribute to the world. By contrast, somebody with a coherent argument is worth talking to, and you may be able to explain something to them. Also, somebody who is your friend is certainly more important to talk to than that guy who you met at a house party once and you had to tag in the back of a selfie.
- Be prepared to quote yourself. There will be somebody who won't have read what you originally wrote and are getting offended on behalf of other people. There's no point going to the effort of saying the same thing again using different words. Copy and paste were invented exactly for situations like yours.
- Don't insult them. You may well think your aggressor is a total idiot. They may well be a total idiot. You might want to retort after they insulted you. But other people will be looking at your responses to them, and they will be judging you on how you act towards other people. I know it's a cliché, but if you think you're better than them, you need to be better than them.
- Try not to swear - for the same reasons you shouldn't insult people. On top of that, it almost certainly won't add anything to your argument, and on mediums where you have a character limit, you're wasting them.
- Remember, you almost certainly have people who support you. Unless you've put something totally repulsive or tried to defend the indefensible, some people will agree with your point of view. They just don't have a lot to say, because a compliment takes far fewer lines than an argument.
- Ask yourself this: what does it mean if somebody is spending so much time correcting you? There are several answers to this, but the most common one is that they don't have anything better to do. Don't use that against them, because that's insulting, but hold it as a comfort that they've honoured you with their time.
- They will give up. They may have a lot of time on their hands, but that doesn't mean they can keep going forever. They will either get bored or run out of things to say, at which point you've reached an impasse and you can go to sleep.
- Remain open-minded. Just because somebody disagrees with you, doesn't mean they're stupid. Something they say may well round off the rough edges of your controversial opinion, or who knows, maybe you were wrong all along.