Very often, when someone posts something I disagree with, I will , after thinking about it for a moment, reply with an appropriate rebuttal. Sometimes people don’t like that, they consider it raining on their parade, meddling in their business. I think of it as constructive engagement. They see it as heckling.
Sometimes, I’ll correct people’s grammar. That really pisses a lot of people off. I’ve become a bit more circumspect about it over time. For instance, if somebody writes “I’m so sorry Aunt Mabel died, were all going to miss her,” it’s probably not worth pointing out that there should be an apostrophe in we’re.
On the literary pages I frequent, there is a great amount of disagreement about when and how often it’s O.K. to plug your own work. It’s generally agreed that ‘too soon’ and ‘too frequent’ are to be avoided, but the exact definition of ‘too’ seems to vary from person to person.
People have different strategies about who they choose as friends, whether or not to send birthday greetings to people they don’t know in real life, whether or not it makes you look superficial to use too many emojis, or nerdish to use correct punctuation in a short message.
In political arguments, which I engage in frequently, there are questions about whether or not it’s O.K. to make jokes about people, sometimes when those people are just begging to have jokes made about them. Also, the kind of trash talk that may be de rigueur when playing games is considered an ad hominem attack, and sarcasm is very often misunderstood.
Also, sometimes you’ll raise a point and people want you to cite a source, which is sometimes because they’d like a source, and sometimes it’s just because they can’t answer the argument and they’re stalling for time, or hoping to use your very source as a counterattack. (Oh, you read that in The Guardian. I never believe the Guardian.”)
We all wonder what the correct etiquette is. Well, here’s how I see it: We’re into new territory, and things are changing right in front of our eyes. There is no official set of rules, so they are evolving as we go. We can no more agree on them than we can in real life, because that is our nature as individuals. So, I think we’ve got to be a little bit flexible. Because, if everybody refuses to bend, then something’s going to have to break.