Don't Argue in Cyberspace


In cyberspace, no one can hear you win.

Think about it – when was the last time you changed your mind because someone started yelling at you in comments or corrected you online? Never? The same goes for your argumentative posts. You may get the other person to stop responding, but that doesn't mean you've convinced them.

An online argument can quickly escalate into a flame war, which is usually all about name-calling, trash-talking, abuse and threats and not so much about the legitimacy of climate change or what the end of Donnie Darko was all about.

Flame wars can destroy friendships, damage reputations and leave a trail of evidence of you when you are not at your best.

Remember, if you've posted it, it could be there for life.

If someone unfriends you and you feel like letting them have it, take a moment before you hit send. If they don't want to stay in contact, it might be best to leave it at that. And if you do want to stay in contact, arguing with them will only convince them they were right in the first place. A calm, friendly approach is always going to get better results than insults.

Trolls - people who deliberately bait others online to get a response – are one of the big pains of the internet. If a comment seems outrageous, it's probably been designed to get you to bite. The less you feed them, the less likely they are to troll. When you argue with an idiot it can be hard to tell the difference between you and them from the words on the screen.

The best strategy is to stay out of it. If you really feel the need to respond, then walk away from the screen, have a drink of water, take a few deep breaths and/or a walk around the block, and if you still feel you need to respond, type it up, save it and read it in an hour. If it's still really important, consider delivering the message face-to-face, in a letter or in a private email. Otherwise, you're better off letting it go.

Picture This...

It's hard to believe it started over a movie. Even after you'd settled it (you were right, by the way), it didn't stop.

You can't even really remember why you got so mad, but there it all is, in black and white.

It looks a lot worse in print. When you were sending messages back and forth, it all seemed funnier somehow - or at least it did to you. Now that you read it back, seems like you did most of the typing.

It's hard to explain that you didn't want to upset her. You were just IMing, she brought up the movie and you got a bit carried away - well, a lot carried away. You didn't realise how much swearing there was until now. But you know each other from school – you thought she was cool with it.

Seems she got really upset and showed it to her friends, who showed it to your friends, and then someone got the whole transcript of the conversation and posted it on Facebook, along with some not-so-flattering photos from your timeline.

There's been quite a few unfriendings happening lately, and a few parties you've only heard about afterwards, even though some of your mates were invited and went.

It's not so much the swearing - it's more that the whole thing makes you look like a nerd who has nothing better to do than sit up at night arguing with a girl from school over stupid movie trivia that doesn't matter that much to anyone - even you.


Below the Belt: Sex, Selfies & Cyberbullying
A free Android app with info about laws on sex and consent, sexting and cyberbullying.

eSafety - Dealing with Trolls
The Australian government's eSafety website has some good tips for dealing with trolls.


Helpful site full of tips on how to stay in control on the web.

eheadspace is a confidential, free and secure space where young people 12 - 25 or their family can chat, email or speak on the phone with a qualified youth mental health professional.

If you or someone you know need someone to talk to, for any reason, about anything, you can call Lifeline on 13 11 14 - 24 hours a day.

Kids Helpline - 1800 55 1800
Kids Helpline is a free, 24-hour counselling service for young people aged 5-25 years. Counselling is offered by phone, email and over the web.

An Australian film about a group of high-school friends who post a rumour about a rival and spark a chain reaction that leaves no one untouched. Will these friends avoid being tagged forever?

A Thin Line
A US site that helps you draw the line between digital use and digital abuse.

That's Not Cool
An interactive site from the US that’s all about where you draw your digital line.