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.

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  • SpireaX

    I loved # 9 THE BEST!

  • Kev C

    10. Those people who use references that are more obscure than a 1991 Dennis Miller joke.
    11. The people who become peaved by obscure references and interpret them to mean something else, only to call you a racist teabagging nazi as a default insult for causing them to be perplexed.

  • Scott Bonzitski

    I agree with SpireaX, It’s akin to answering the phone when the ID shows “private/anonymous/out-of-area”. Just IGNORE it/them and they will go away. When you respond, you are fueling their fire and it makes them feel as if they are manipulating YOU. Let it go and don’t give them the satisfaction of “getting-your-goat”…SB

  • GreatGatsby2011

    Love it!! Love everything about it!

  • Erich

    The timing of this posting is apropos. I’ve been noticing (and getting very annoyed) lately that almost all of the postings on this blog invariably have one or two comments criticizing Villareal for either the quality of the writing, the appropriateness of the article, or any number of issues. All I have to say is that when Queerty was shut down, I missed it, and I was really happy when I discovered that it was back up and running. Do I like every posting, no of course not, but you know what? If I don’t like the story, or I’ve read it already on another site, I MOVE ON and don’t waste anyone’s time with a stupid passive-aggressive comment. Please stop leaving them.

  • Nico

    I’ve never written a comment on Queerty before, but for a couple years, I have read over the comments section as a way to gauge reaction, and it has been nothing short of fascinating. I have often characterized commenters into these aforementioned categories. In some ways, it seems like there is a perpetual war between Queerty and its commenters, so addressing this tension was a great idea. Nonetheless, there are many rational, intelligent people who use this as a forum, and all of you renew my faith. Thanks for this post, Charles. It was witty and absolutely adorable.

  • CBRad

    ( that pic is hot )

  • DJ Veno

    I agree with all of that.. Mean people can turn a wonderful conversation into a braw for all. I also don’t get some of these old school queens who come on here and put everyone down.. o well.

  • DJ Veno

    Heck yeah, I want the guy in the middle!

  • Eric

    Does this mean that you’re going to start editing the horribly trans-phobic “discussions” that always follow trans*-related stories?

  • WillBFair

    I admit to letting my tone get unkind on occassion. But the ones who bother me are the hypercritical, harping on a minor issue as if it’s the end of the f—ing world; and the anti Daniel people who often don’t even understand his posts, but for a misplaced comma will tear into him like a buzz saw on meth.

  • Jeke

    There’s a typo in #6. You need an “of” between ‘They are the result’ and ‘writers writing too fast’.

  • Erich

    @Jeke: Seriously dude, did you read the article? I’m pretty sure the writer did that intentionally.

  • WillBFair

    @Eric: ‘Horribly trans phobic’? That’s the talking point at Bilerico, often supported with false stories and unfair accusations.
    For years, saying ‘tranny’ was ok. Suddenly they decided it wasn’t, and anyone who hadn’t gotten the memo was by definition a trans phobe. And there’s the constant name calling at Bilerico: priviliged, white, trans phobic, cis, gay man. This without mentioning the latest in the series of smears of Dan S.
    Trans people’s contempt for gay folk has been blatant for months. It doesn’t bother you?

  • RandyPants

    This article was TRUTH. Thank you for writing and posting it. My favorite was #5. Have a great day! :-)

  • JDav

    I felt compelled to add my voice to the chorus– this was utterly witty and accurate. Well done, Charles! I’ll be looking out for more of your writing. There was a smile on my face from point 2 throughout the rest of the post.

  • Fitz

    I can definitely get nasty and sour when I think it’s appropriate.
    I wouldn’t change that for the world. It’s part of the gift
    of learning to be a proud gay man of my years. I speak my truth. Always. Always.

    But I will TRY to be civil. I obviously like coming here, or I wouldn’t.
    Exception: when some 17 year old with a tribal tattoo tells me that I can’t say Tranny.

    Tranny Fanny fo fanny, me my mo manny, ee ay oh anny: TRANNY.

    I’ve known
    and worked with and loved and buried more Trannys than you have ever met.
    Learn who your enemies are or you will never have the joy of outliving them.

    Why don’t you do like Joe My God, and make people register with FB or

  • Hephaestion

    There are some bad commenters on Queerty, but not enough to ruin the experience of using Queerty.

    DATA LOUNGE, on the other hand, has so many bad commenters that the site is very depressing. No matter what is posted, there are bands of mentally unstable people sitting ready to write some heinous, awful reply immediately. You can’t say ANYTHING without being attacked. Very sad how many hateful & disturbed people are out there.

  • dvlaries

    Yes, whether a board is heavily moderated or a total free for all, the one thing we can always control in the internet world is our reputations.

    The wise owner of a Queer As Folk-inspired message board, that I was a member of for six years, once explained to me commenting there was “like flapping your dick out in the breeze. Sometimes you’ll get it sucked, sometimes you’ll get it chopped off.” If you appreciatively acknowledge the occasional stroking you’re lucky enough to foster, then the brickbats don’t hurt as much when they inevitably happen.

    I think Queerty has now been part of my every day ‘Web diet’ for four years and I’ve enjoyed it all. And -whew!- thank goodness you came back after that brief ‘out of business’ earlier this year.

  • james_from_cambridge

    I’m absolutely shocked! All these comments and nothing from Jason about those nasty bisexual womens.

    P.S. How many rules did I break with my comment?

  • ewe

    I have had more than one Menage a trois and let me tell you IT’S EXHAUSTING.

  • fairy

    I met some feminine guys on this site http://faeries.forumup .us/index.php?mforum=faeries

  • ibarra

    @WillBFair: i don’t remember ever thinking that “tranny” was ok. diminutives always lessen the descriptees’ experiences. just saying.

  • Patrick

    Love, love, love this post. It’s so true. Online commenters can be the worst sometimes. Props to you for continuing to write and ignored the hate! :)

  • Robert

    I find all of this very entertaining. The list and the comments on the list provide interesting glimpses into the pedantic term, esoteric field, yadda, yadda, yadda. It is, in all honesty, a nice way to view the psychology on anonymity. Thanks for the entertainment, it’s a nice break from the super serious GLBTQ sites I visit. :)

  • WillBFair

    @ibarra: It all depends on how we look at it. For those not needing to take offense every second, tranny was charming and fun and unapologetic.
    It never had the history of cruelty that words like f—-t and the n word had. But it was convenient for the trans community to label it off limits, then demonize anyone who used it.

  • Mike

    Charles, you forgot the commenter who goes around insisting everyone who disagrees with him must have been horribly rejected by his father and has daddy issues.

  • Riker

    @Mike: That would be Little Kiwi. Oddly enough, I haven’t seen him around here lately. Maybe he finally got the hint.

  • vinnyc

    @Riker… Troll much.. here let me feed you and leave kiwi alone. he is worth a million times your kind.

  • MattGMD

    #8 – The 2d paragraph hit home with me after a local county commissioner had been posting cruel, racist and homophobic comments for a year or so using an online psuedonym for the paper. Long story short, he was ‘outed’ this past week and of course when a reporter asked him about his comments under the psuedonym, he was “sorry if anyone was offended.” Hilarity has ensued since then because he thinks using the psuedonym was the offense, not referring to gays: mentally defective; blacks: thugs, chimps; Pres. Obama: Kenyan commander in Thief, the list is long.

    Enjoy the Holiday.

  • Franco

    You realize there is a typo in number 6 right? The one about typos. I agree that typos happen but on Queerty, they happen a lot. Sometimes you guys report on events in a certain city and routinely spell the name of that city wrong. Ottawa, the capital of Canada was misspelled Ottowa almost five times in one article. That’s a grievous error if you ask me! Other times you ignore facts or make them up. If you want to build credibility you have to be more careful and thorough. That’s all.

  • jason

    I’m a very compassionate person but I don’t like hypocrisy and double standards. Woe betide anybody who takes the moral high ground on an issue on which they don’t have the right to take the moral high ground.

    I’m very observant in this regard. I won’t hesitate to criticize anybody – gay, straight, white, black, male, female – if I consider them to be hypocrites and frauds.

    I’m not hostage to political correctness and I won’t play the identity politics game out of fear of offending those whom we consider to be part of our coalition.

  • Steve

    I think it’s just hilarious when a grammar critic gives a full volley regarding the (presumably intentional) typo in a paragraph about typos, in an article about grammar critics.

  • Ronbo

    Bless your little hearts. But I know it takes some grit to help the sandpaper smooth the rough edges. If you think you don’t have rough edges, you are either non-human or in denial.

    Criticize with impunity. Cut and tear me down. I am made stronger and more self-aware through criticism – foul or fair.

  • Pete n SFO

    I miss the “like” “dislike” thumbs-up and down buttons…

    So many comments are just bullshiz from ppl w/ too much time on their hands (and likely not the brains they were born with)

    The result is that I barely skim, instead of actually reading them. Too many entries from the same couple of ppl and I’m outta there & back to the home-page to find something else of interest.

  • declanto

    I come to Queerty to find relevant articles about the Alphabet Salad Confederacy GLBTQ(and sometimes Y). In such a diverse community there are bound to be differences. Honest exchange is how we resolve those differences. Queerty’s comments have always been spiked with every one of those nine points listed by Mr.Purdy. Some like it hot, some like it cold. I enjoy a good dust-up where wit and intellect play havoc with rules. Cruelty and stupidity require discipline. That said, congrats to Daniel V. for keeping it lively. Mr-Purdy, thanks, but really I can figure this out all by myself.

  • declanto

    OOOOH and HOT pic<3

  • Oh Dear (John From England)


    THIS. It’s really frustrating as well because there are some good posts but boy are they mean and [email protected]Erich:

    Oh please V is hardly the nicest writer around. Which is why this post is so ironic. I don’t come here as often because Queerty is so mean and hateful in their articles. I’m not saying they should be voiceless like Towleroad but the snark isn’t witty,it’s just mean.

  • Cam

    I disagree with 9. People who engage with mean people

    Remember, after the gay march when the liars were coming around trying to say that there were only 1000 people there. We posted pictures of the parade that showed them they were liars. They stopped trying to say that.

    Remember the Mormons that had their established narrative that gays were “Bulliying” them by not letting them be bigots. WE responded and they had to shut down that line of phony defense.

    Responding to liars and people using false facts is the only way to end that. If you don’t then they just continue with their lies, growing them etc…

  • the other Greg

    @Cam: You’re right – #9 seems to contradict about 99% of gay activism!

  • the other Greg

    A couple things I’ve noticed in a few weeks here:

    Commenters’ craziness is often in proportion to their closeted-ness. A leading question or two can get them to reveal how closeted they are in real life. Closeted people can’t ever allow themselves to get mad at their parents (for instance), so they will get mad at YOU instead and not even notice that their misplaced Tasmanian Devil-style rage makes no sense. The best response to a Tasmanian Devil is to act like Bugs Bunny: keep it funny.

    Re: #8: Transgender people tend to be mean. (Not intended as an insult – pls read on.) They have to be! It makes sense that in real life, they would be used to employing that defense. Like a lot of “cisgender” gay men I don’t know any T’s personally and read Queerty for info. And okay, I get that life as a T must be stressful and quite a hassle. In the future if I recall that a certain commenter is a T, I’ll try to cut them some slack.

    These problems aren’t going to come up much at the Atlantic Monthly, but it’s not as much fun over there.

  • steve sydney

    What about the the queens here who think they have a right to put down other people who are simply playing devil’s advocate?…

    On any post about Barebacking is where you’ll find the disdain with comments like “People are so stupid to do… You deserve what you get if you do” then if one doesn’t want to take such a holier than thou attitude, they are then ridiculed as some sort of martyr for the cause.

    I especially can’t stand people who want to compare countries against one another. Whether it’s gay rights or social equality. The amount of sweeping generalizations made such as “[insert name here] is incredibly homophobic and/or backwards” is overwhelmingly disappointing..

  • Smartypants

    @fcckman: You forgot to add “illiterate”.

  • Tony

    How about noone comments about anything and then you’ll be fired because noone cares about anything you have to say. You sound like an actor who hates his fans asking for autographs. Any attention is good attention.

  • Tommy Shepherd

    One commenting thing I hate is when someone writes a very negative evaluation about an article or a person, without bothering to give an explanation. So they might just write “You’re wrong!” or “That’s boring”.

    Oh and Tony, any attention is not good attention. Charles Manson gave Sharon Tate a lot of attention. Hitler gave the Jews attention….

    And there’s a difference between an actor hating a fan who is being nice and asking for an autograph because they like you, to being upset by a commentor who tells you he’s going to kill you because you wrote a post about Madonna. Not the same thing.

    If I had my way, all comments would come with a photo of the commenter, and their full name and address. That’d stop the cowardice and hatefulness which is now endemic on the internet in an instant.

  • Joe

    4. ” … If it makes you feel any better, writing for the Internet doesn’t pay well at all. Go ahead and try it.”

    Well, I really wanted to. I sent many electric writing submission to Dan Avery and he never replied.

    Comments may be signs of derangement and mental defective, but al least he hired you.

  • Aiden

    @WillBFair: So now all trans people hate gays? And on post about trans people all anybody can talk about is why they have to be associated with them, despite the fact that it’ never even the topic of the story. This is about so much more than the word tranny.

  • Joe

    Boy, did I just prove that I was a jerk or what? I’m not. I’m just sleepy.

    I used the word, “electric,” when I meant “eclectic.” Well, at least I can proofread my own work.

  • the other Greg

    @Joe: I’m shocked and appalled that they didn’t hire you!

  • h

    this article was really funny. i came here just for the views on lawrence v. texas but i think i’ll be back if articles like this are representative of the quality of this site.

  • David Ehrenstein

    The nasty commets in here are as nothing compared to the ones on sites that presumably cater to the “general public” like Yahoo. Go to any LGBT-related news story on that site and you’re head will spin from the anonymously-posted bile.

    The same can be said of comments in such publications as the “Los Angeles Times” and “The Washington Post.” On any topic of serious interest you can name — gay or straight — the knives come out like nobody’s business.

    I like a goos prited discussion like the next person, and I’m more than willing to respond when someone throws shade. But by and large negativity gets exhausting.

  • Red Meat

    I try to be all those above as best as I can for the sake of the internet.

  • WillBFair

    @Aiden: You’re right. There’s bile on both sides. I just wish we could get past the bulls— and work in sweet togetherness.

  • Ogre Magi

    Well I certainly don’t engage in any of that behavior!

  • ScottBonzitski

    OK…now…let’s all take a deep breath and……….e-x-h-a-l-e… Now, ABCDEFG,HIJKLMNOP… A lot of you here act as if you are still in kindergarden. How sad some cannot form coherant sentences let alone speak with an open mind. Such a fracus to read all these postings when only 2 out of 56 are worth reading…SAD…Ppl do NOT care about your opinion UNLESS it CONTRIBUTES to the story at hand. If you do not like what you are reading, go elsewhere. [~or~ change the channel…]…SB

  • Paul Lacey Sr

    Enjoyed reading the site, saw it for the first time today.

  • MKe

    LOL I think personally I’m a mix between 2,5, and 9. On sites where you can’t edit your comment 2 really comes back to bite you in the ass sometimes.

  • MA

    Queerty, try looking in a mirror. Your bitchy style invites bitchiness. Your sarcasm sets the tone for sarcastic exchanges. Smart people can make their points…well, smartly. And that intelligence draws out intelligent commentary. You get the commentary you deserve.

  • Henry

    You forgot number 10: the shit-stained idiot who mistakes your concern for justice with a with a woman’s or a very young boy’s feeling of powerlessness. If you didn’t already want to take a power saw to his neck, you would after seeing how he projects his infantile powerlessness on to you.

  • smoochycoochy

    i cant believe you wrote an article like this! omg im so mad and holier than thou

  • o

    @Henry: There’s also the fact to consider that was brave enough to rape you, but too much of a pussy to kill himself. He’s said over and over again he wants to die, so what’s stopping him? He’s not like you, Henry. He doesn’t have the determination or the courage to kill the one person anyone finds hardest to kill…. himself.

  • the other Greg

    Over at the Advocate & other gay/queer sites they have a lot of Rule #1 One-Track-Mind-Crazies who are horribly offended by the word “queer” and object each and every time it appears in a story, or even in comments. You guys have dodged that problem creatively at Queerty.

  • Marge Hamilton

    This leaves JMG and Towle as sites where open exchange can take place.
    R.I.P. Queerty.

  • christopher di spirito

    Love the body on the guy in the middle. Whoever he is, more please.

  • dvlaries

    May I further suggest, that to get the most out of Queerty’s comment area -or any message board- is to come to it with an absolute minimum of fixed opinions. Leave room for the other guy’s viewpoint, yes, but -even harder- allow for the option of letting someone else change your mind.

    My mom still says “life is a classroom till the day we die,” and thus even long-ago set conclusions have the possibility of reversal. After all, isn’t that what we’re challenging the straight majority to do in our ceaseless quest for our own equal rights?

    You’ll meet no shortage of trolls on message boards, it’s true, but if you’re lucky like I’ve been, you’ll meet a few wonderfully wise souls too. The trolls you’ll quickly forget, the names of the wise ones will stay with you forever.

    (Duc debrabant and man5996853, wherever you are, this one’s for you :) )

  • Meowzer

    I love this whole story. I have long wondered why people who like to rag on this site bother visiting at all. I work at a newspaper and often read the comments left by our readers on stories we post online. I don’t believe most, if any, of these people would say these things to people IN PERSON. Yet it’s perfectly alright to spout trash in the comfort of anonymity in your little bubble.
    There is one thing about giving your own opinion, but another about trashing everyone else’s, the site you’re own, and the writer of the piece.
    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again…. get over yourselves people.

  • Meowzer

    I love this whole story. I have long wondered why people who like to rag on this site bother visiting at all. I work at a newspaper and often read the comments left by our readers on stories we post online. I don’t believe most, if any, of these people would say these things to people IN PERSON. Yet it’s perfectly alright to spout trash in the comfort of anonymity in your little bubble.
    There is one thing about giving your own opinion, but another about trashing everyone else’s, the site you’re own, and the writer of the piece.

  • Scott

    re: #7

    Ah, rebellious youth …

    >> 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) …

    Just because you can doesn’t mean you should. How many times I’ve responded to my life partner’s question with honesty only to realize, oops, he really meant he wanted me to lie.

    >> … because Miss Higginbotham told him so in fifth grade …

    Still stuck in personal issues from long ago? If you don’t agree with the rules how will we ever be able to communicate? An ex-boyfriend once said to me, “I use words differently than you do.” That’s why he’s an ex, because he refused to properly communicate.

    Poor grammar isn’t going to help you to get a job, especially if you use it on a resume although I suppose you can still write the manual for the gadgets I buy: nice and short, lots of pictures, unhelpful.

  • Stephen

    I, too, write professionally in a fast paced, web-based environment. Yes, typos are a fact of life, but professionals also PROOFREAD. Try it. (Hey, I just caught a spelling error in this comment–and fixed it! IT REALLY WORKS!)

  • Cary Hartline

    You should have also put the people who say everything was better 10 years ago. Also, the people who think of themselves as music critics, but only like things that are not “mainstream” (hipsters).

  • MotoMouth

    I heard a comedian say once, “Whenever you’re feeling good and right about the youth of today, go look at some YouTube comments.” The sad thing is, it isn’t just the younger generation.

  • declanto

    “Don’t post hate speech. Don’t incite violence. Don’t defame anyone. And don’t be a total dick.”
    So which photo did you choose to illustrate this new, improved, updated policy? Incitement, or simply illustrative? And yes, I thought it was hot, too.

  • TerryB451

    9. Why only Nine?. Nine is such an arbitrary number – couldn’t you have thought of more or less?

  • sunshine.by

    I am shocked and appalled!

Comments are closed.