Online, we tend to see commenters and often bloggers who are full of zealous praise or hateful wrath. However, we commonly don't see the sizable number of moderates who approach online articles and blogs more carefully, both as readers and writers. How do these moderates approach online articles differently?
These moderates tend to see the world of blogging as a learning experience and a discussion, not a battleground or debate. They understand the limitations of all blogs (e.g. the short length) and the goals of many blogs (e.g. to educate not just argue).
These moderates may hold very strong views but they are distinguished by their calm and rational approach. Sometimes they may troll or passionately blog about an idea. And indeed, good trolling and good passionate writing are wonderful things. But when these moderates troll and proclaim their passion they do so in earnest and for the sake of education.
So here are the three things that moderate readers and writers understand about the blogosphere that we all could do with a reminder of:
#1 Articles must be short, so there will always be holes
Blogs are only a glimpse into the opinion and knowledge of the author. Authors have roughly 750 words to express an idea. This means authors must leave things out. People who violently comment on articles with phrases such as "This isn't true in this situation, so your entire argument is wrong" miss the point. Blogs can only feasibly offer up only part of the story.
If a reader knows a lot about a topic the reader is likely to see something missing in most topical blogs. Noticing a hole in a blog often represents the general intelligence of the reader not the ignorance of the author. Like anything for short mass consumption, a blog will have to be simplified, so expect to find things missing.
Advice to writers: Any blogger that claims to completely solve a world problem in 750 words is usually in the wrong.
Advice to readers: Any reader who judges a blog based on the blog's ability to completely solve a world problem in 750 words is also usually in the wrong.
#2 Sparking discussions not arguments
Many people read to despise rather than despise based on what they've read.
In other words, many people troll and write online because they enjoy trolling and writing nasty blogs. Indeed, psychological research sadly shows that people get a lot pleasure out of degrading the thoughts and behaviors of others of different beliefs, cultures, and skin colors.
People who have decided where they stand on an issue and refuse to move on the issue will not learn anything from reading a blog or from the act of blogging. They totally miss the point that blogs are often about sparking discussion not an argument.
Actor, author, and craftsman Nick Offerman recommends people to adopt the mindset of an eternal student, and always seek to learn. Many 20-somethings online seem to have concluded that they already know everything and thus pass judgment on articles rather than seek to learn from the articles.
Advice to writers: Embrace discussion, because chances are you are not 100% right.
Advice to readers: When possible, approach the comments section as a discussion not a war.
#3 Empathize with the enemy
In the novel Ender's Game, Ender becomes a master of warfare. Ender becomes a master by respecting his enemies. He empathizes with them and considers things from their perspectives. In doing so he gains a tactical advantage.
Consider which of two readers are more likely to win a future political debate: a reader who dismisses all the points of an author or a reader like Ender who considers others' perspectives and revises personal arguments? Obviously, the latter.
Even reading a blog from an author that one entirely disagrees with can be enlightening. Indeed, a wise reader can learn more from a foolish blogger than a foolish blogger can learn from a wise reader or commenter.
Advice to writers: Thoroughly understanding those with whom you disagree is the key to good persuasion and argumentation.
Advice to readers: Read articles from standpoints you disagree with (and actually read it all, not just give a nasty comment based on the title). More ever, if you are pro-gay marriage but still think you can learn something from the book Ender's Game by anti-gay marriage author Orson Scott Card, then you are perfectly demonstrating a moderate approach to reading.
Conclusion: We need more moderates to join the discussions
Unfortunately, the moderates may often not comment. This is sad because many readers look at the comments for more information. Without moderates commenting, readers only find stringent ideologies and anger. Those brave moderates who comment on articles are to be commended. Outlets like The Huffington Post and The Opinionator have built up small communities of moderates that provide insightful comments and expand the discussion. But those communities could be bigger.
Further, these moderate commenters help bloggers by providing additional insights to help bloggers refine their ideas. Comments that simply say "Amen!" or "Lies!" have their place, but so do comments like, "The scientific study you referenced may represent a correlational pattern rather than a true causal pattern" or "You should check out this public policy perspective to help with your next article." On the other end, bloggers need to respect, not just ignore comments from the "ivory tower" of their blogging position.
Remember, if you have an intelligent opinion, and don't mind the fact that someone will probably call you a racist/bigot/traitor for saying it, then share it or blog it. Know that there are many other people like yourself who will appreciate and take note of your comment. Remember have strong beliefs but be moderate in your methods when possible.