2.3
October 6, 2008

Words have Power: How (not) to Comment Online … Mindfully.

Ever read the Huffington Post? Or any one of 1,000s of blogs? Or, more to the point, ever read the comments? They’re often harsh. New York Times did a feature article on it, recently. Will Ferrell did a spoof video. Treehugger asks folks to be nice and thoughtful in their comments, and we do the same.

Hillary made fun of the notion that words did anything. Obama defended it, mentioning folks like MLK Jr., whose words changed our history.

The other day, our editor Heather Mueller—a young lady whom I admire (she’s far more mature than I was at her age, or my age now for that matter) and respect (she thinks before she writes, imagine!) posted a thoughtful, short blog on the Tibetan situation

And of course Mr. Free Tibet over here (I grew up in an American Buddhist family, my parents were students of Chogyam Trungpa, and I’m pretty well-educated and genuinely, personally passionate about the Tibetan situation)…well I immediately posted not one but two fervent—and maybe true, too—comments picking on word choices in her article. My comments were intended to inspire discussion—to get our readers to realize how harsh it is over there, how 1/6 Tibetans were killed following 1959, how it’s still illegal to hold a picture of the Dalai Lama (as if it were illegal for 2005 Democrats to hold a picture of John Kerry, our erstwhile President). 

But, in the process, I ran right over the feelings of a well-intentioned, well-educated-on-the-issue person whom I care a good deal about. This morning, I awoke to a hurt email from Heather, and saw that she’d deleted the post (accidentally—she’d just wanted to take it down and reedit it). And so this seems as good a time as any to remind myself of Mindful Speech, as I studied (too long ago) in the Buddhist tradition:

1. Speak Slowly

2. Enunciate Clearly

3. Listen to yourself.

4. Listen to Others

5. Regard Silence as a Part of Speech

6. Speak Concisely, or Simply, or something like that.

So, to conclude, let me as editor-in-chief of elephant journal proclaim that we don’t want traffic, that holy grail of the internet, if it means appealing to our readers’ lesser selves—encouraging and instigating lots of unfair comments from both sides isn’t helpful. Passion is fine—meanness is not.

So if you have a comment, elephants, let’s make it well-thought-out. Match our passion with our consideration. Let’s put our names on our comments, and forgo the anonymous, rudeness-inducing screen-names so common these days. Let’s create a forum by, of and for mindfulness, and enlightened society. In the longrun, that’ll get us the greatest support (and traffic) of all, anyways.

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