Can you imagine getting into a discussion at a party or in a pub with someone you barely know, say a friend of a friend. This happens a lot on social media. You can be on a friend's Facebook page, having a heated but respectful debate and then another 'friend' comes in and starts telling you you know nothing, or you should "get over yourself" and so on. Really? Would you do that if we were both at that friend's house? I think not.
And although it's almost impossible to have a discussion in 140 characters, this happens even more on Twitter. In the past few weeks I have been called an "abject moron" for wanting responsible gun handling laws, a "Commie Brit" for pointing out the lower incidence of gun homicides elsewhere, and a "pedophile supporter" - not quite sure what that even related to. Of course, it's a little less controlled on Twitter as anyone can pick up on a comment you make; they don't even have to be following you.
But, - and here's the secret - you can block them! Yes, really. It's not a sign of weakness, especially if you give them fair warning. My fair warning usually comes in the form of "Ah - and now the insults. A sure sign that you'e out of ideas". Yes, it can infuriate the offender rather than makes them pursue a more rational line of debate, but who cares? You're just about to block them and they know that whatever their next salvo is, - you can't see it! Quite takes the wind out of their sails.
So I'm taking my own personal stand - and it's even on my Twitter profile. "I promise to block you if you start hurling insults."
Try it - it's very liberating!
Or just send them this!