I'm sure you've all felt this at some point, but let me just start this piece off by saying: nothing could ever have truly prepared us for 2020. Physically? Maybe. Mentally and emotionally? Nope. From a global pandemic that's causing months of quarantining to riots and protests fighting against injustice that has held a place in the United States since its founding, this has been so. much.
I want to tell you it will be okay, but the truth is I don't know that. But what I can tell you is I understand. I understand, I get the need to get some of what you're feeling out, and writing is a wonderful way to do that. But before posting anything online (anything), there are a few steps that need to be taken.
By being on wtw (or any other social platform) we are (often unknowingly) taking full responsibility for what we write. Post something nice? Great, you're a nice person, people will remember that. Post something even mildly offensive? People will remember that, too. And you can argue in the comments, you can tell people they're wrong, you can take the piece down all you want and say you never even wrote it, but the reality of the situation, aside from lying being wrong, is once something's on the internet, you can never fully erase it.
You heard me right. Never. You've heard that with pictures, someone probably screenshot it or saved it, right? While I'm not sure if this happens on wtw (I've never personally done it), everyone who read it remembers. It doesn't matter what you do now. It's been online. There really isn't any going back. You can be naive and tell me things like this don't happen on wtw, but they do. People post offensive things, other people save the receipts. I've seen it. In this piece, I'm going to try and help minimize the likelihood of this kind of thing happening by talking about apologies, debates, political pieces, and the importance of staying educated. I'll try to keep it as short as I can, but as a tip, use ctrl+f to get to specific sections (Political Pieces, Debates, Okay, Now What?, and How Can This Be Prevented?)
If you've read my more recent work, you know I love a good political piece. A good political piece, meaning that it is written clearly and is not offensive to any party. Any, meaning even the ones you don't agree with. I know it may be easy to forget, but there is a human being on the other side of the screen, reading what you write. And if you're being offensive to a group of people, that hurts them. And ultimately, it hurts you just as much.
On the other side of that, if someone wrote a political piece and you just disagree, that is not them offending you. If they are simply stating what they believe without being disrespectful or demeaning, that is not offensive, you are just being sensitive. I have seen enough actual problematic behavior on this site in the past month to tell you, please don't go after people who are doing nothing wrong. It is 100% okay to voice your opinion in the comments section. But do not whine or throw pity parties or tell someone they are "wrong." for believing something just because it differs from you.
If you do see something offensive, however, do not be afraid to tell the writer so. I also ask you report it to the admins. Do whatever you feel is necessary (unfollow, unlike, etc.) but make sure that you do not, in the process, become a bully yourself. As a wonderful book series by Lemony Snicket once said, "If you fight fire with fire, the whole world will go down in flames." I've found the best way to tell someone they have done something offensive is to be specific. What was offensive? Why? And what are some resources to help them educate themselves? This gives them no excuse not to know what they did, and some direct ways to figure out what was wrong with it and how to make things right.
I've been a part of some wonderful, respectful wtw debates, and I've been part of arguments. There really isn't much of an in between. Now, with my pieces, I happen to love to debate. It's just something I enjoy doing. If it's not your thing, that's okay too, but you have to be prepared for people to want to, especially if you're posting political pieces. One thing I recommend doing if you just don't want to debate is put that in the footnotes or message to readers.
If you are willing to debate, here are some general rules to keep in mind so it stays polite and fair:
Don't get offensive in any way. Make sure not to insult the person or say anything rude based on things you can't control. The way I learned this was, "if it doesn't pertain to the subject, don't say it." or "if they can't fix it in two minutes, don't mention it." Pretty much, just treat people with respect.
Don't spam. It's annoying and disrespectful.
Keep an open mind. One of the main purposes for debates is to talk and learn about different views, and open-mindedness makes it all the more interesting.
If your opponent wants a truce, don't bug them about it. Give them a truce and be sportsmanlike.
If they for any reason want your responses off their piece, for the love of God take your responses off. Be respectful. It's their piece they worked hard on. They deserve say in what stays in their comments.
A few more things that aren't rules, but I find are helpful:
Keep your debate on the same pieces. That way it isn't spread out over multiple different pieces that the writer might not want it on.
I think we all know this but anyone who might not, tagging people in the comments doesn't work. To reply o someone, you have to actually go to their pieces and comment (usually prefaced by "reply")
Okay, Now What?
Let's say you posted something offensive. I'll give you the benefit of the doubt; maybe you didn't know. Either way, someone called you out on your mistake and now you have two options:
One, you can fight them in the comments and dig yourself farther in the hole you're already in. Or two, you can apologize and fix your mistake. I don't think it's much of a secret which one is the better option.
Now, apologizing on the internet is...well, hard. We've all seen youtuber apologies. I'm sure we've all apologized for things, and we've been apologized to. We know what's real and what isn't. I wish I could give you a better guideline on how to do this, but by doing that, it would be my apology, not yours. My best advice is this: tell what you did and tell why it was wrong. By telling people you know why you were wrong, they will see you have educated yourself and will do better in the future. Don't taint your apology with defenses or excuses. Don't say, "I have no friends." Don't say, "Nobody likes me." Don't paint yourself as a victim. That's not an apology. That's a cry for attention. And just like it looked bad when the youtuber did it, or the celebrity, or even someone you know, it will look bad for you, too.
And for those of us on the other end of that apology, please, for the love of God, be polite. If you see a person sincerely trying to apologize to you and better themselves, don't give them a hard time or make them draw it out. You don't have to forgive anyone, obviously, and you don't have to be friends. But be civil.
How Can This Be Prevented?
Well, I honestly can't say offending someone can be completely prevented. We are all different and there will always be something you overlooked or someone who gets offended about something you didn't even know. But there are precautions we can take, and one of the biggest is to be open minded. You don't agree with someone else's lifestyle? Why not? What are they doing, by simply living differently than you, that's causing harm? Does someone have a different view on politics or religion? Put yourself in their shoes. Why might they think these things? Is it possible you even can find some common ground? Be open minded. It's so much better feeling than being hateful to those different than you. (Quick note: you can be open minded and still disagree with some things. That's okay. I'm just asking you to think about different views.)
Another big one, especially if you're writing pieces that deal with current events or politics, is to educate yourself. Read a news article. Then another one from a different view. Then another. Surrounding yourself with all views of the story not only helps you understand what happened better, but also helps you figure out what your personal views are and what you don't quite agree with. I find a good news source to start with is the New York Times (I'll link all these in the footnotes for anyone who wants them). After that, I might look at ABC News, which tends to be a more neutral source. National Review tends to be a very reliable source for a more conservative outlook. And as for a Christian source, Christianity Today doesn't always cover everything, but when they do it's done in a very respectful way. I find a good way to stay on top of current events is the New York Times podcast, The Daily. It's only about 20 minutes long and gives a good general overview of the top stories from the past 24 hours.
My last tip to you is to learn about other people. Learn about their cultures. What might be seen as offensive to them? Why? Oftentimes if we understand something a little better, we'll be able to sympathize with it more. And learning about cultures is often a good time. You can use your new information to educate your friends and family, and then maybe they'll learn something too!
We're a good community, guys. We're all incredibly talented and smart, but there's always room for growth. And I hope this helped or at least gave you tips/ideas on how to do just that. I'm so proud of all of you, and love each and every one. NOw let's continue the wonderful group I know we all are, okay?
If you have any further questions on this, feel free to drop them below! I make sure to always answer any questions I get.