How to Like (or Dislike) Something on the Internet Without Being a Complete @$$hole

I am not an overly wise person. While arguing about superhero comics once, I famously backed myself into a corner where I vehemently argued that Grand Funk Railroad are as great as the Beatles.
I mean, their commitment to coming to your town with the intent to party down is admirable, but come on.

How did this happen? The answer lies with… “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”. 

A nation of geeks, still suffering from prequel PTSD, heaved a nervous sigh of relief when they first learned that new, actual Star Wars sequels were going to be made, and George Lucas wasn’t going to be involved.

"Yeah, if my kids liked Grand Funk Railroad, I totally would've put them in the prequels too." (photo via Uproxx)

Then the movie was actually released, and we all watched it. Then we went online and expressed our opinions about it. AND THEN IT WAS MUTHERFUCKIN ON BITCHES!!1 The now-traditional internet rage-olympics commenced.

Some people liked TFA and said so on the internet, and people who did not like TFA jumped their shit. “It’s exactly the same as A New Hope! Don’t you realize that?! How stupid are you! You must be literally the stupidest if you didn’t realize that, and even MORE STUPIDS if you did realize that and like this WORST MOVIE EVER MADE anyway!” In case their position was too subtle for public consumption, these haters often backed up their point of view with links to clickbait articles like “SW:TFA is Complete Shit – Some People are SO FUCKING STUPID They Don’t Realize It’s Just Like SW: ANH”. Who wouldn’t read a reasonable and even-handed article like that?  

Meanwhile, lest you think this is a tale of Right Versus Wrong, some people went online and said, “You know, I didn’t really like TFA. It was too on-the-nose with its parallels to the first Star Wars movie for my taste.”, and people who in fact enjoyed TFA responded with an avalanche of “Are you insane?! TFA is fucking AMAZEBALLS, you brain damaged ass hat! It OBVIOUSLY could ONLY be made that way, you’re just too STUPID to process that!” And the champions of TFA backed up their position with links to articles like “Incredibly Mentally Deficient People Who Hate Anything Popular Because They Are Sad and Lonely Losers Dislike TFA in the Wrongest Way Possible!” 

Oddly, not much rational discussion of the film followed from these posts.

This pattern repeats itself with charming regularity when anything popular is released – “Stranger Things”, “Ready Player One”, every Marvel superhero movie, etc. But why does it happen? 

The main culprit is that nearly all of us suffer from the self-delusion that we are cool-headed, impartial rationalists whose superior brain thinking produces results that are always well-reasoned and objective – unlike the rest of you rubes, who are biased, emotionally unstable cretins incapable of processing anything objectively. I would be surprised that I have to explain this to you, except, you know, that whole subjective, emotionally reactionary thing you got going on.

"'re not talking about us, are you?"
The reality of course is that our emotions and our past experiences color everything we see, think, and feel. It’s surprisingly hard for people to admit that, because our society is really obsessed with the idea of being Right. And you can’t win arguments online if you’re wrong, so you must be right! If the fact that TFA parallels a lot of ANH actually made TFA at all worse, then I – a rational, sharp-minded, logical thinker – would have already come to that conclusion myself. Since I didn’t, you must not be as good as thinking as I am and you’re wrong! See how wonderfully circular it is?

You’ll notice that these arguments tend to turn very personal very quickly, and that’s really ultimately what this is all about.  

Entertainment relies heavily on emotionally connecting with people on a primal level. We consume entertainment for many reasons, but an important one is to feel things deep in our hearts. We like it when a song or a novel or a stand-up routine or a movie makes us feel thrills, anger, exaltation, when it makes us laugh or makes us cry. And feelings are very personal because they tie directly with our own past experiences, our own disappointments and regrets, our own triumphs and tragedies. 

As a result, many of us (myself included) bond tightly with our tastes when it comes to entertainment (and other things as well), and so we get the following general effects:
  • When we express liking or disliking something online, we feel the need to do a point-by-point breakdown of the reasons why, so everyone knows that we are very rational people with very good reasons for our opinions.
  • Having been on the internet before, we often anticipate contrary opinions and preemptively try to rebut or attack those views. 
  • When someone attacks the thing we like, or champions the thing we dislike, we take it personally – we feel like it’s our tastes, our intelligence, our US that’s being assaulted.  And we do NOT like it. 
  • When someone responds to us, we feel like we MUST respond in turn and argue that they’re wrong, because otherwise our silence tactically acknowledges that they are right – and they’re not! 

The fact that these exchanges happen on the internet just makes them worse. We feel like we’re being called out “in public”, in effect laughed at in front of the entire class. It’s like a nightmare come true. We can’t stand the idea of someone “scoring points” at our expense, or anyone thinking that they’re right and we’re wrong because we didn’t respond.

Something else that contributes to the ratcheted-up conflict in these discussions is modern internet culture’s tendency to talk in superlatives (Lord knows I’m super guilty of this – the absolute worst ever!). It’s not enough to like something a lot, we have to LOVE IT!!!!! And of course you can’t just think something is bad, it has to be ABSOLUTE SHIT, literally the worst thing EVER, and you must tell everyone why!

In the modern online marketplace where competition for clicks, views, likes, and shares is fierce, clickbait outrage articles have proven reliable attention-getters, which only makes all of this EVEN WORSE still. Allison, a person who really likes TFA, sees several people of the Book of Face share clickbait articles along the lines referenced at the beginning of this article (“SW:TFA is Complete Shit – Some People are SO FUCKING STUPID They Don’t Realize It’s Just Like SW: ANH”). Her friend Bob didn’t care for TFA and says so on Facebook, raising a few of the same points as the articles Allison has read, although not as obnoxiously. Allison, fed up with this shit, jumps his case. Bob, meanwhile, has seen several article shares on Ragebook mocking people whose opinion on TFA is similar to his own, so when Allison comes at him, IT IS ON. And off we go again.

Let’s all try to make the online world a better place by not falling into these pitfalls over and over again. Here are some things to keep in mind (and believe me, I need to work harder to keep these things in mind myself): 
You are not the movies and comics and music and everything else that you like. If someone criticizes them, they’re not criticizing you. Don’t take it personally. 

If someone originates a conversation by saying something you disagree with, you don’t have to say anything. It’s okay for wrong entertainment opinions to be out there in the world. Don’t sweat it.

If you do want to respond to disagree, there’s nothing wrong with that, of course, just don’t feel like you need to do a full point-by-point takedown of everything someone else said. 

Also, don’t make things personal. Attack works or ideas, don’t attack people. Also, throw in some extra text to make it clear you’re not attacking the other person or their intelligence or their tastes. A little extra verbiage to keep things cordial is worth its virtual weight in bitcoin.

  • If someone else is clearly taking something you said harsher or more personally than you intended, try to deescalate the situation. Say you’re sorry even if you don’t really  mean it. Just don’t be condescending or awful about it (“I’m sorry you’re so emotionally fragile that I upset you” just makes you the asshole).

  • Don’t feel like every individual point that someone else communicates needs to be responded to. It’s okay to let things slide. 

  • Although snark is the internet’s stock-in-trade, if a discussion starts to get heated, or you know it’s a distinct possibility, try to avoid using snark (and I say this as someone who loves him some snark). It’s just going to make your communication sound more hostile and more likely to provoke angry responses.

  • Try to avoid sharing or reference obvious rage mongering clickbait articles about geek stuff, even if they’re really funny or express your own opinions really well. Or if you’re going to, at least call out that you know this is obvious clickbait. That might help people think that you’re not just being obnoxious and lessen the odds they’ll feel obligated to come fight with you over it.

  • In general, if you see that tempers are starting to flare, try to talk things down. If other people see that you are genuinely trying to make things more civil and not trying to fight for the sake of fighting, they will often dial their rhetoric down as well.

Finally, here are what I think are the most important points in this entire article.

  • Your tastes and opinions are not 100% objective, logical, and rational. No one’s are. AND THAT’S TOTALLY OKAY!

  • In fact, it’s okay to have totally subjective, illogical, personal opinions. It’s okay to like something that you know is objectively bad MORE than something that is objectively better. That doesn’t make you foolish, or uneducated, or stupid, or someone with poor taste, it just makes you human. It’s okay to like Grand Funk Railroad as much as the Beatles (which, for the record, I do not) even if you know for a fact they’re not actually as good. Such is life! Enjoy these idiosyncrasies. Just don’t feel the need to try to argue other people into thinking the same thing.

"Well fuck you, Chris. I thought I was your Captain, yeah yeah yeah yeah."

Here, in the calm, cool, rational space of this excellently-written blog post, it’s easy to say, “Well, duh. We all know this stuff already, genius.”, but in the heat of the exchange of contrary ideas and opinions on the internet, they tend to go out the window quickly, so try to keep ‘em in mind. A little effort to make things better goes a long way.

Chris Maka is a veteran video game and mobile app developer who also happens to be an illustrator himself (he has an online portfolio and additional artwork up on his DeviantArt page). He also tweets and instagrams occasionally. Chris is one of the Fifth World's founders and editors, and if you want to communicate at him directly, you can email him at

How to Like (or Dislike) Something on the Internet Without Being a Complete @$$hole How to Like (or Dislike) Something on the Internet Without Being a Complete @$$hole Reviewed by Chris Maka on Tuesday, October 03, 2017 Rating: 5


  1. Somewhere Mike Chary is smiling.

  2. Even agreeing with this made me mad, as it resurfaced “engagements” I’ve had both f2f and online. Movie nerds, man. Kyle enemy #1.


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