There was a Comment Section Debacle yesterday on a book reviewer's blog. If you haven't heard about it already, let's just say it involved some pretty defensive reactions from an author whose book got mixed (not bad) reviews. And other commenters thrashed her for it. She was acting cray-cray. But the incredibly hostile reaction was ill advised too.
Neither our disgruntled author nor the self-righteous backlashers were in the right. Both trounced online best practices--you know, the ones where you don't get too personal with questions or overshare or post your bachelorette party pictures. Or freak out on people. Sarah Fine has a great post on the psychology of it all.
Yesterday's display points to a serious tendency among online media users to be short-sighted and self-centered. We're all guilty of it. We're getting used to feeling entitled to say whatever's on our mind: broadcasting with the sense that someone out there must care, and that our opinion matters, even if it's adding nothing to a discussion where the same sentiment has been expressed ad nauseum (They don't, It doesn't). Protected by the quick pace and relative anonymity of the web (getting no response to a tweet or status update is much different than, say, telling a joke at a party and getting crickets), we live more stream-of-consciousness than ever. Stream-of-our-own-consciousness, that is.
Getting outside our own heads is important for a lot of reasons. First off, as I have previously advocated, making content relevant to your audience means thinking of their needs, not just yours. That's about building a following, a brand, etc.
But besides being a good PR/marketing move, taking a step outside of ourselves, as real-world interaction forces us to do, makes us considerate of others and temperate in our reactions. That's about being human.
Don't forget that those avatars represent people, people.