Microprocessing

Why Being Mean Online Is Never the Way to Go

Keep it in the DMs, if you must

Angela Lashbrook
Published in
7 min readMar 13, 2019

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Credit: d3sign/Getty Images

In Microprocessing, columnist Angela Lashbrook aims to improve your relationship with technology every week. Microprocessing goes deep on the little things that define your online life today, to give you a better tomorrow.

InIn early January, the internet erupted over a blog published on Bon Appetit. “Why I’m Never Buying Dollar Pizza Again” by Alex Delany critiqued the very notion of cheap slices because of their “mediocre” ingredients and something about the environment. He reasoned we should splurge on $4 slices.

Twitter didn’t take this well. People reasoned that the article was classist, in that the writer didn’t take into account why someone would only be able to pay a dollar for a pizza slice. Someone dug up one of Delany’s old stories about the proper way to hold and consume a slice, to which someone snarked: “Someone needs to come get this mans.” (Delany declined to comment for this article.)

Was some of the social media criticism warranted? Sure. But was it really worth all of this? No — and the pile-on reveals a harmful tendency on social media that has more side effects than you might realize.

A few months ago, I made it a goal on Twitter to, as I call it, “keep it in the DMs.” Instead of snarky retweets or posts in which I rage about something people already know about, I’ll direct message or text it to a friend. We’ll bitch privately about how wrong the author of the piece was, expressing our frustration without infecting anyone else — including the original writer. The stupid article will fade into obscurity faster because fewer people are propelling it into the public eye.

It’s been a mildly successful experiment — I still post emotional tweets, only to realize my mistake and delete them a couple minutes later — but I feel a lot better, like I’m saving my public anger for issues that really matter.

Of course, having a rude or combative online personality doesn’t necessarily mean you’re like that IRL. But the internet does make it easy to unthinkingly engage in mean, unhealthy, or generally negative behaviors that we might avoid in our offline lives.

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Angela Lashbrook
OneZero

I’m a columnist for OneZero, where I write about the intersection of health & tech. Also seen at Elemental, The Atlantic, VICE, and Vox. Brooklyn, NY.