I have a problem: I am far too easily attracted to online debates.

My frequent desire to leave long comments is part of why I started this blog. On a whole, blogging tends to be a much more constructive alternative to random commenting.

That’s not to say online comments can’t be constructive – they can. If we are able to keep things on the right track.

This guide is by no means exhaustive, but it is a list of best-practices I try to use when interacting with other dancers on online forums.

1. People will see what you post

If you don’t want all your dance friends to see something, don’t comment. If it’s sensitive, you can always private message someone.

More often than not, ‘active’ comment sections shoot straight to the top of a newsfeed. Even for non-dance related threads, if you comment, your dance friends may see your response to that completely unrelated item.

So, if you don’t want people you dance with to see it, don’t comment.

2. On dance posts, the majority of people are dancers

This is another big one, especially since dancers tend to consider themselves an extended family. If you are engaging with dancers – especially if you travel or the topic relates to a style you’re active in – be aware that you may meet these people in real life.

I can tell you that there are a few people who have commented on dance-related posts who I never want to meet or dance with. And, while online forums may not be the ‘true’ face of the person (online often brings out the worst), it’s still enough to dissuade me from wanting to engage with them in the flesh.

Once again, if you’re commenting, make sure you understand what you’re presenting to your dance family.

3. Be Kind

There is no excuse for not being kind.

There have been a few times where I post a reply to an issue, and one of my ‘supporters’ chimes in with something along the lines of “Yeah! You go girl! Tell that a**hole d*ckface sh*thead that he can go f*ck himself!”

No. Just, no. That’s the type of attitude proper commenting is supposed to diffuse.

Being kind usually leads to a better resolution. Most debates are lost the second someone gets defensive and throws an insult out there – whether their point is right or wrong.

And yes, there are some dancers out there will very disagreeable viewpoints. But, you know what changes people’s minds more than calling them a motherf*cker? Engaging with them in a way that highlights your intelligence and your awesome points.

4. Don’t take the Bait

If you have a reasonable point you want to make or defend, don’t take the bait when people goad or insult you.

I’ve been called several things, including but not limited to b*tch, slut, whore, primadonna, high-maintenance, misogyny-sympathizer, “a four”(out of 10 on the ‘f**kable’ scale),  sexist, feminazi, ugly, fat, a pretty face with no substance, and more.

If you let it get to you and start throwing insults back, your points lose their credibility. Sometimes, that’s what the other person is trying to do.

5. Back it up

If you plan to support your points and examples, use trustworthy sources. If it’s something you don’t actually know is true, then make it known that you aren’t sure if your information is accurate. There’s nothing wrong (or dishonorable) when you acknowledge that you don’t know everything.

(Bonus: don’t make unsupportable points, and make sure that you’re using critical thought – not just regurgitating an article you read.)

6. Be accurate

Recently, someone tried to define “slander” to me using a completely false definition. So, I corrected him (perks of being a lawyer). His response was that I was ‘missing his point’.

Granted, his point was that we shouldn’t say mean things about people. But, the support he used was ‘because they can sue for slander’. Since the “because” was wrong, it completely undermined his original (and reasonable) point.

If you give supporting facts, take care to be accurate.

7. Avoid overstatements

It’s really tempting to overstate things when we want empathy or support. But, the problem with overstatements is you lose the ability to convince people who are on the fence.

When you retell a story or state a pattern, make sure that you are giving the information as close to its true form as possible. If the ‘dangerous dance’ you had involved a guy who squeezed too hard, don’t say he almost broke your hand unless it’s true.

When you stick to what actually happened, it makes you more credible and your points more defensible. And, it has the added perk of making it easier to believe people who have more severe things happen – without others writing them off as ‘overdramatic’.

8. If you can’t post it with your name, consider not posting it

If you are not proud enough of your comment to not attach your name, think again about whether you want to post it.

There are some times where posting anonymously are beneficial. For example, some people use that to share deeply personal stories that they otherwise would not feel comfortable sharing. But, the majority of people use anonymity as a way to say shitty things without repercussions.

If your reason for posting something is to make someone else feel like shit so you can feel good, think again. You are being destructive. If you have any class or intelligence, you can find a way to rephrase your comment to be constructive, thoughtful, or contributory.

9. Think about impact

Whenever you post something, anonymous or not, think about the impact of what you will say:

  • Who will it affect?
  • What is the likely impact?
  • Is this something that I want to be responsible for?

It’s easy to divorce ourselves from responsibility online. But we really should think twice about it.

Some people have a thick skin. Anyone who spends significant time blogging or sharing views online probably does. But, mean comments can still sting if they hit the right spot. And, there’s others who are far more sensitive. People who can get really hurt by what we say online.

Every time you post something, ask yourself if it will cause pain or happiness. If it’s pain, ask yourself if that pain is really something you want to be responsible for.

Additional Guidelines

Do you have any additional guidelines or best practices you use for commenting? Leave them in the comments!