Online our opinions and words are easily thrown about with consequences that are not always fitting for the situation. If there is any one thing that we can all learn from the overall hostility that is involved in and around topics like Gamergate it is that there is a lack of consideration of other user’s humanity. The result of this forgotten courtesy has brought forward issues that we don't face in our day to day life with the public.
The internet is a place that we visit after work, school, with our morning coffee; for some they can make a living by using it as a resource. When we plug into our computers the world doesn't stop around us, so why do harsh words and unnecessary reprimands flow so freely from our finger tips? Today there are things said online meant to get a rise out of someone, and call public attention with no care for the other person behind the screen. When your opinion is put out onto the web it isn't a statement that has been crumbled up on a piece of paper and thrown in the trash; it is a real vocal statement of who you are and how you feel.
Dependent upon the opinion you choose to express, it will change other's perception of you. What you convey on screen sparks questions to the reader "Are you approachable?" "Are they open minded?" "Will they yell at me for disagreeing?". You get to decide how a conversation goes by how you form your response. It is easier to be flippant with someone who disagrees with you but the productivity of the conversation can only go down hill when one person is plugging their ears while the other is screaming about how they feel.
This popular idea of it being okay to harass, demean, and dehumanize another person based on the idea that one assumes they are a “sockpuppet” or “bot” is something to take into consideration. Regardless of that person’s opinion it is important to remember that if you wouldn't say it to them in person, there is no reason or justification to say it online; regardless of the assumption of who it is behind the screen.
Some personal accounts that relates to this topic are conversations I have had with certain twitter users, combined with the response from my own followers .
Many times I have seen users start up a discussion, and dependent upon on who they are, some of my followers, who mean the best, tell me to stop talking with that person because of their history. I’ve had polite conversations with some users who are considered controversial and I've had some that led into the depths of peoples personal phobias driven by a need to spread hate. By treating them as the individual that they are, if they truly have poor intentions, it will show their real motive. By being able to listen and hear these people out, it has done more good than bad from my perspective and shows that most want to talk or at least vent about these issues. Both means of communication can be productive if you’re willing to listen, always trust what another person is expressing to you but be sure to verify its contents before taking the opinion on as your own.
As always take your interactions with those online with a grain of salt, try to keep an open mind, and keep the focus on productive conversation. There are a lot of great tools out there to help you with basic trolling and for the more advanced and borderline harassment cases there are always friends and programs that are wanting to help. Find a good online anti-harassment activist/team to help you feel more secure about your online interactions and maybe we all can make the internet a more enjoyable space.