I’m wearing my Online Debate Team shirt at the moment and I just had to referee a cat fight in a group on Facebook where I’m one of the admins so this subject seemed appropriate.
I try not to pick fights… too often. (Maybe once every few years and only on subjects where I’m pretty confident that I’m right.) It’s not worth my time (especially these days) and I know I hate it when people pick fights with me. Any comments left on this blog that are nasty go right into the spam folder and the offending party has their I.P. banned.
Last summer, I saw a post on a blog with which I disagreed so I refuted her points. That irritated her and she waged an all-out war on me on her blog and in my comment box where she created new identities and I.P.’s using a proxy server. A pastor’s wife friend of mine dared to defend me so she went after my friend on my friend’s blog and in comment box the same way. After praying about the situation, I decided to be the bigger person and called a truce because sitting back and eating popcorn while watching her self-destruct was not a godly way to handle the situation.
Why am I bringing it up (other than her bringing it up on her blog nastily a few months ago)? Well… I believe there are some rules we should be following in how we disagree online.
[+] Try to remember that the person you disagree with is a human being and not a disembodied voice whose text is appearing on your screen. I try to remind myself of this when I read someone online with whom I disagree and/or find to be an utter twit. As much as I might find what they say to be stupid, they have as much of a right to hold that opinion as I do to hold mine.
[+] If you’re going to refute something that someone has written, do so charitably. You can disagree as much as you want; but if you’re sticking a link to the original post, understand that it might get back to the original poster that you’ve written it and they may not be happy. Also, quote the whole piece in blockquotes so your readers can see the context in which they said things. It’s only fair. Lastly, try not to speak of the poster derisively. You are trying to refute their ideas, not their existence.
[+] If you’re disagreeing with someone on Facebook, remember that your conversation is visible for the entire world to see. I’ve seen people act like jerks on Facebook and I kind of wonder if they’re oblivious to the fact that everyone in that group can see the conversation. Ditto when it’s on someone’s wall.
[+] If you claim to be Christian, remember that you are representing Jesus to non-Christians. Another one of my pet peeves is Christians acting like bullies in places where non-Christians can interact with them. It sends the message that God is OK with people behaving shamefully in His name, regardless of whether God *is* in fact OK with this. (Spoiler: He isn’t.) Are people going to be attracted to Jesus if you call other people names? As a convert, I can tell you the answer is “NO!!!!” If nothing else, it took *longer* for me to come to faith in Christ because of the way I had seen some people act who professed to be Christians.
[+] If you’re going to post something in which you disagree with someone else, pray before you hit the “publish” or “submit” button. It hasn’t stopped me from completely putting my foot in my mouth but it at least gives me to think about it first.
My two cents.