Editor’s Note: Ms. Communicate will be writing twice a month columns on various and sundry issues related to advice, guidance and suggestions for living as happily as possible as citizens of various identities in the 21st century.

Ms. Communicate’s column will be appearing on the second and fourth Thursday of the month. Please send in any topics that you would like her to cover, as well as any letters seeking advice, which she’d love to answer. Her email is mscommunicate(at)rabble.ca.

Today I’m writing about a problem that plagues many of my friends and loved ones. Reading online comments, especially mainstream media sites such as CBC.ca and the Globe and Mail.

All progressive types know that those places are populated by often misinformed, regularly offensive, and sometimes ghastly folks who occupy, to me, the far right of the political spectrum. Yet their mere presence and volume are starting to sound like the centre. Sort of like what the federal Conservatives have done. And we’ve seen how well that’s worked out haven’t we?

Many of my friends who read comments online — and these are people who are media hounds — the genuinely curious, or the morbidly fascinated, complain bitterly to me about the comments they read, and bemoan the fact that now they have to go about their day with various degree of nonsense taking up space in their brains. Some get to know their most hated nemeses, but can’t stop themselves from continually reading comments throughout the day, only to yell at the computer, or say to their friends, “Omg, you have to see what Commenter X said today!”


So I’ve developed a few suggestions, sorted by category.

Reduce the time you spend, thereby reducing the volume of comments you read.

1. Set aside a certain amount of time to read them, and a particular time of day in order to limit your exposure to their lethal fumes. If you can’t control yourself on your own, try getting all ready for work or for whatever will take you away from the computer for a bit, and then read comments when you only have five minutes before you have to leave.

Note to friends and co-workers of the online-comment-readers: do NOT accept persistent tardiness from these people. They need to know the consequences of their comment-reading behaviour.

2. I realize that the first point doesn’t take into account that many people are wired and connected and internetted all the time what with ifones, ibrains and iconsciousnesses and central-nervous-systems-connected-directly-to-iservers-and-iISPs.

Since the handheld devices are with people at all times, except maybe during bath/shower time, and I’m sure some waterproof covering is in the works even as I write this, I can’t really help you unless you want to help yourselves.

3. Find a friend suffering from the same problem. Develop a buddy system in which you call each other and have permission to yell abuse at each other if either of you are reading the comments too much, based on the goals you’ve set for yourselves. And hey, handy, you can find some great verbatim verbiage in the very comments you are trying so hard to not read as much! Ah, irony.

If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.

4. Become a regular commenter, offering either well thought out comments filled with facts, bolded current references and positivity, or possibly ranging down to similarly incoherent rantings (but from the left! See Keith Olbermann for tips) just for some balance.

As you contribute more regularly you may, and this is a strong “may,” feel that as you actively engage rather than be a passive reader, you’re at least doing your part to dispel the hate and ignorance that is often such an integral part of anonymous online comments. Your feelings of anger and frustration may subside. Hey, let me know how that works out if you try it, okay?

Really tough cases. These are for those of you for whom none of that will work. So for you I have but two possible suggestions.

5. Cold turkey. It hurts me more than it hurts you. Actually, it doesn’t but you know what I mean.

6. Shut up already! You know what you’re getting into when you go on those sites, fer cripe’s sake! Stop complainin’!

Good luck!