On Tumblr, email lists, comment forums, and other types of social media, it’s really easy to get bogged down in destructive conversations. People can end up spending lots and lots of time talking to people who aren’t really worth talking to, and having conversations that are draining and don’t do anyone much good.
Here are some rules that I try to observe that I think mitigate that somewhat and help me to find better conversations. They probably aren’t the right rules for everyone, but they work well for me and I think there are good reasons for that:
1) If you don’t want to talk to someone, don’t. You don’t owe strangers on the internet your attention.
2) Don’t have extended conversations with people who aren’t interested in understanding your point. (Unless you’re responding to them publicly for the sake of communicating something to your followers who *are* interested in understanding what you’re saying.)
3) Seek out people who are worth talking to and who have decent values and say interesting things. Conversations with those people are a much better use of your time than extended conversations with willfully clueless jerks.
4) Don’t be a sadist, and don’t seek revenge. It’s not good to seek out people who are wrong and lash out at them with the primary purpose of hurting them. (It’s ok to post things that hurt things, there are vital things that can’t be said without hurting anyone. What’s not ok is posting things *in order to* hurt people.)
5) Don’t post replies in order to satisfy a feeling of anger (or automatic emotional responses generally); only post in ways that express anger if you’ve thought about it and decided it’s a good idea. Anger isn’t bad, but the fallout of angry posts that haven’t been thought through properly can be.
6) If you don’t want to talk to someone, block them. Err on the side of blocking people if you think you don’t want to talk to them. There are plenty of people to talk to. Blocking someone doesn’t mean that you think they’re a terrible person and should be banned from the internet forever. It just means you don’t want to talk to them and so aren’t answering their calls.
7) Don’t try to pick a fight with someone to make them go away and stop talking to you. It’s often not effective, and it’s not necessary – you can unilaterally end the conversation if you don’t want to continue it. Trying to make them go away suggests that you think you need their permission to end the conversation, and you don’t. It’s also draining, and wastes time and energy that could be spent having actually good conversations.