Oh, Behave!

The Nine Worst Kinds of Online Commenters


If you want to write for the Web, you have to have a thick skin: people get nasty. And if you want to write for a gay site, you need a Kevlar bodysuit. In my long career of putting things on the Internet, many readers have taken advantage of comments sections to threaten me with death—for offenses as serious as offering etiquette advice (which was asked for!) and writing about my enjoyment of Kylie Minogue‘s music. It’s an Internet thing. Go to any site where people can have online discussions, and you’re sure to find a lot of people saying a lot of nasty things.

I just wish we LGBT brothers and sisters treated one another better than that.

After I publish something, I skim comments looking for readers who have thoughtful rebuttals, interesting points, and error corrections to share— and I truly value those comments. But they’re often outnumbered by these folks, the worst commenters on Queerty:

1. One-track-mind crazies
This includes the homophobic nuts who apparently receive alerts when certain topics appear on our site, just so they can come here and call us names before scurrying away like cockroaches. If you’ve come to this post to write a comment about something that someone told you appears in the Bible, this is you. Go away.

2. The person who reads only the first sentence
I realize I’ve already lost this person to the comments section: He’s down there now, clickety-clacketing away with profane insults or raising points that are dealt with in this piece’s sixth paragraph.

3. The person who writes “Why are we wasting time on ____ when there are dying/oppressed people in _____?”
I get this person a lot, because I write about lifestyle issues. His holier-than-thou attitude is based on a fallacy. He’s really saying, “This doesn’t interest me.” Which is fine, but it’s nothing he needs to tell the world about. That is, it’s not as though he spends all his time working to resolve world crises—he also, I assume, finds time to watch TV, listen to music, go to work, socialize with friends, eat corn chips, masturbate, troll the Internet looking for text boxes to write in, and so on. These activities, too, do not directly help end world hunger or disease. So it’s settled—we all occasionally engage in activities that other people find frivolous.

4. The person who “can’t believe” [insert writer’s name] gets paid to write for the Internet
Believe it. If it makes you feel any better, writing for the Internet doesn’t pay well at all. Go ahead and try it.

5. The person who is “shocked and appalled”

6. The person who is shocked and appalled about a typo
Listen—typos are a fact of life, especially in the fast-paced world of the Web. I’m grateful when people point mine out, so I can fix them. But let’s agree that typos are not indicators of subpar intelligence or a failure to grasp the basics of the English language. They are the result writers writing too fast, and of having too few copy editors — and sometimes of a glass of wine at lunch.

7. The misinformed grammar expert
This person thinks that you can’t end a sentence with a preposition (you can) or that you can’t split an infinitive (you can) — because Miss Higginbotham told him so in fifth grade (and everyone knows she’s the last word on the subject). As with typos, I appreciate having grammar errors pointed out, but I suggest that people do so with caution. First, do the necessary research (if you haven’t cracked a grammar or usage book in more than ten years, then you may need to refresh your notions about grammar). Second, be polite; self-appointed “grammar police” who are rude and insulting always end up making grammar errors in their comments.

8. Mean people
They suck, as the popular bumper sticker of the 1990s put it. Now, good writers welcome healthy debate and differences of opinion. But mean people often mistake their opinions for facts (admittedly, there are some gray areas there), and fail to recognize that a difference of opinion does not require threats of bodily harm. Also, using nastiness and foul language (and/or all caps) makes the mean person seem insane — it does not convince anyone of the validity of his opinion (in fact, it does the opposite). I am saying this in an effort to help all readers make themselves better understood.

Anonymity, of course, is one reason for the mean person’s stridency: a certain type of coward will say anything when he doesn’t have to attach his real name to it. And writing an anonymous attack screed on the Web is one way, I guess, for angry-at-the-world people to release some frustration. We should pity them.

9. People who engage with mean people

You can’t cure crazy with a comment reply. Don’t try. Ignore mean people, and they’re likely to go away.

Photo via polinasergeeva

Charles Purdy is the author of the book Urban Etiquette: Modern Manners for the Modern Metropolis and a longtime manners-advice columnist. In his Queerty column, he addresses issues related to social behavior. Find him on Twitter: @charlesqueerty

In keeping with the spirit of this column, the Queerty editorial team has updated our comments policy. We are proud to host one of liveliest discussions on the Web and hope to maintain a respectful atmosphere. Check it out and please remember our sage advice: Don’t post hate speech. Don’t incite violence. Don’t defame anyone. And don’t be a total dick.