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Accountability in the "Comments" Section

April 26, 2019


Mental health practitioners have noted for a long time how differently people can behave online than they do in person; often in more negative and aggressive ways, with resulting effects on readers. This is especially typical with topics that generally tend to be polarized to begin with: religion, politics, and relational dynamics (i.e. parenting, sexuality, marriage, etc.). See the following article: The Psychology of Online Comments.


I’m inviting all of us to consider both self-care and self-monitoring when it comes to the “comments section” of any online medium we may be visiting. Here are some ideas to consider both as we make comments… and as we read them:


  1. Boundaries. When and if somebody is sharing a personal experience, it is not appropriate to disagree or minimize what they have been through. 

    • A simple, “for me,” at least allows for the possibility that there is room for more than one experience. "It was helpful to read your experience so that I could consider something other than my own. Because, for me, I saw it from this perspective."

    • The sandwich approach, bread/meat/bread, can also be an effective and empathic way to express an opposing thought. "I really appreciate your willingness to share your perspective on this (bread)… I happen to have a different viewpoint (meat)… regardless of how we may differ on this, I appreciate our friendship (bread).” 

    • The “yes, and” is also a good strategy. “Yes… I can see your point of view… and I also think about this being a possibility as well.” Getting rid of "but" is good since it automatically invalidates. 

    • Focus on feelings (process) that go deeper than anger or disgust. “It is hurtful for me to read this perspective because my personal experience has been so different” instead of “what a load of crap.”

    • If you are the one who has written something and you feel disrespected by comments, you can mindfully decide how much you want to participate in debating back and forth. From not making any comments in return, to stating that you will not be making comments in return, to asking that peo