An extremely important associate of mine, Soapjackal, asks:
“What is your online policy [for dealing with others]?”
1} Say nothing online that you would not say to the person’s face. Now, I’m pretty ballsy, so that gives me some leeway, but I still err on the side of caution.
2} Keep in mind – the vast majority (~95%) of folks online have absolutely zero desire to sincerely communicate. They want to get attention, vent their spleens or both. Only extremely rare cases have any True desire to exchange ideas. Therefore, unless the individual in question has had civil commentary to date, simply ignore their words.
3} The stronger the desire one has to reply to a heretofore unknown commenter, the greater the need for silence. The German army used to have a policy of denying the filing of complaints prior to 24 hours after the impetus occurred. This is an excellent method to adopt. 99 times out of 100, within 24 hours one will completely forget the once inflammatory statement.
4} Never reply out of boredom or anger. If you’re bored – find something more personally productive to do with your time. If you’re angry – scream into a pillow. The internet is forever. The other solutions are not.
5} In the event you actually respond, maintain your calm, be polite, be civil and be as “boring” as possible. Stick to sheer facts and plain language. In the (highly unlikely) event the person reads your reply with interest and thoughtfulness, then a cogent debate will follow. However, more often than not, they’ll get bored and simply drop the conversation – thus, saving you precious time.
For better or worse, there’s my personal policy.
All the best to you and yours,