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

Via Waylon Lewis
on Oct 6, 2008
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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.


About Waylon Lewis

Waylon Lewis, founder of elephant magazine, now elephantjournal.com & host of Walk the Talk Show with Waylon Lewis, is a 1st generation American Buddhist “Dharma Brat." Voted #1 in U.S. on twitter for #green two years running, Changemaker & Eco Ambassador by Treehugger, Green Hero by Discovery’s Planet Green, Best (!) Shameless Self-Promoter at Westword's Web Awards, Prominent Buddhist by Shambhala Sun, & 100 Most Influential People in Health & Fitness 2011 by "Greatist", Waylon is a mediocre climber, lazy yogi, 365-day bicycle commuter & best friend to Redford (his rescue hound). His aim: to bring the good news re: "the mindful life" beyond the choir & to all those who didn't know they gave a care. elephantjournal.com | His first book, Things I would like to do with You, is now available.


3 Responses to “Words have Power: How (not) to Comment Online … Mindfully.”

  1. Heather says:

    Thanks, Way. Critical thinking, and criticism, is necessary in today’s over-saturated media world. And I love that with the rise of blogs, readers are invited to participate and help shape the dialogue, rather than having to sit back with the remote, shoving popcorn into our mouths while being told what to think or how to vote or what to believe.

    And as a writer, reader comments—both critical and supportive—help me to shape my own craft and opinions. And I think it’s helpful for commenters to know the power of that role—it’s not about proving each other wrong, but using the tension and stress of disagreement to form a new dialogue, where hopefully everyone can learn something, whether or not they change their opinions.

  2. […] we practiced elocution (speaking precisely, with power and beauty) and studied the six aspects of Mindful Speech. It’s been a long time, and I don’t remember their exact wording, but whenever I find […]