Confessions of The Original Online Junkie: How to Avoid Internet Road Rage

What is internet road rage?

in·ter·net road rage

 noun \ˈin-tər-ˌnet ˈrōd ˈrāj\

: uncontrolled anger that is usually provoked by another’s irritating act and is expressed in aggressive or violent behavior

At some point, we’ve succumbed to, witnessed, or have been on the receiving end of this kind of behavior online. Whether it’s on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, online forums, or in the comboxes {comments section of blogs or articles}, people have a tendency to lose their cool to varying degrees, from simple disagreement to outright rage, as Father Longenecker recently observed. Sometimes, the conversation that stems from an article is heated in response to what was written – the actual article/post/tweet/etc. Other times, conflict comes from the tangential conversation that commonly takes place in the comboxes – the article was primarily about A, but covered secondary points, B and C…folks in the comboxes decide to discuss secondary points, disagree, and discussion derails into something entirely unrelated to the post. The result is the same when cooler heads cease to prevail. What would probably be a civil exchange in person has the explosive potential to derail into something ugly online when left unchecked. From a Catholic standpoint, it can leave you scratching your head, wondering why the need to be online if it means getting into heated and fruitless conversations, leaving you emotionally and spiritually hungover. You might find yourself deactivating your account, the grownup equivalent of taking your ball and going home. It doesn’t have to be this way. Read on to find out how you can maximize a positive experience online.

How to Communicate with Others Online and Not Lose Your Mind (Or Your Soul)

  1. Stay close to Jesus. I’ll make this one short and sweet because I know I’ve said this before. Are you fulfilling your obligation to attend Mass? Are you making frequent use of confession? Are you making it a priority to talk to your Father each day before you hop online? These things help our spiritual alignment when we make God our top priority and our spiritual alignment has a ripple effect. When we are tuned in to God’s plan for us, we can focus on how we communicate with others.
  2. Extend charity, especially when you don’t feel like it. Just after prayer, charity should be foundational in all our exchanges online. When we fail to extend that to each other, conversations can spiral downward. At the exact moment that we feel the need to snark on someone, that’s the same time we should be giving others the benefit of the doubt. Our emotions can get the best of us – I’ve had a LOT of uh hem…how shall I say? spicy conversations online where I was more vested in saying what I wanted to say instead of focusing on the friendship first, or even sharing the Truth lovingly. It became more about right fighting than drawing people in to know Christ. The value of the friendship was diminished simply because they were created online. I reasoned it couldn’t mean as much as IRL {in real life} friendships, right? WRONG. ::after all, I did meet my husband on AOL::  ~  Now that you’ve got the charity part locked down, you won’t need to employ the next few tips, but let’s go over them anyway, just for grins, ok? 😉
  3. The internet is TONE DEAF. Have you ever written thinking how funny you are only to discover you offended someone? Your comment was followed by the sound of crickets, or worse, maybe it incited unintended anger. Awkward. Or maybe you were intending to write sarcastically and it came out all. wrong. That’s because the internet is tone deaf. Unless you are exceptionally good at qualifying all your comments, you can expect one or two to slip through that will make the hair on the back of your neck stand up. You weren’t intentionally being offensive, but the net affect was the same. A good question to ask is did I explain myself clearly? One example I’ve seen in conversations over the years was the use of the word you when demonstrating a point – sometimes, while making a point, we were known to say you in general terms, but this was often wrongly taken to mean we were accusing the person to whom we were addressing. From this, we adopted the phrase general you when trying to make an observation that could be mistaken for an attack. The moral of the story? Choose your words carefully and know your audience.
  4. Would I say this to your face? Along the same lines as the previous point, this can be hard for even the most seasoned internet goers. While there is an element of the internet that promotes anonymity, this can be a double-edged sword, especially by those who use that anonymity to wreak havoc on others. Imagine you are standing in front of the person you are about to respond to – would you {could you?} actually say what you’re about to write? If the answer is no, then delete. If you can’t bring yourself to delete, copy it into Word or some other place where you can let it sit while you take a breather. Revisit and assess whether you still want to say those exact words.
  5. Is this {topic} your hill to die on? This tip comes in handy when talking about controversial topics with acquaintances and friends. A wise friend had a habit of saying in her exchanges that various topics weren’t her “hill to die on” – she would answer a question asked about a potentially controversial topic, preface it well, and then end it by stating that it was an opinion based on her research and how it applied to her family and that other families would come to different conclusions. In other words, it was of no consequence to her if someone agreed or disagreed with her point. And I liked that about her. I latched onto that phrase because it made sense. Many, many conversations and years later, I now ask myself whether any discussion is my hill to die on and proceed from there. Are you having trouble deciding how to employ this tip? Consider that there may be some people with whom you get along with most of the time, but there may be a handful of topics where you risk sacrificing your relationship for a difference of opinion that cannot be resolved in the present.  If you see a situation like this, ask yourself how you can continue to witness the Truth to them if you have torched the bridge to reach them.

As I started writing this post, it quickly dawned on me that there was quite a bit to cover. The next installment will build on this list – if you have any tips to add, please feel free to comment below. Until next time, friends!



Find us on the Gram, Pinterest, & Facebook!