How to Be a Jerk Online

Now that I’ve been blogging for so long, having withstood a number of huge technological waves, I have a fair bit of experience with interacting with people online. Often, due to the nature of some of my posts, some of those interactions are less . . . congenial than I would like. Certainly less congenial than I’d treat other people online. But I’ve been taking notes, trying to refine just how to be as big of a boor to random people, in hopes that I might share this with you, my faithful reader. I mean, you could potentially look at this list and note the things you should *not* do, but where’s the fun in a list like that? Instead, I think it’s much more enjoyable to try to refine the art of aggravating strangers and friends alike.


First off (and this is important), ignore as much of the original post as possible. Yes, someone might have spent an hour crafting a multifaceted look at a complex problem, replete with concessions to the dissenting side, and admissions that their point of view might be limited. Don’t fall for that trap. Taking in the entirety of the message requires both higher reasoning and patience. Instead, cherry pick one or two (at most) parts of the piece that you think you can really dig into. Whatever happens, do not let the conversation shift to anything else. (Unless, of course, your argument appears to be losing. In that case, resort to some of the later techniques on this list.)

Next, try to limit how much you actually say. This isn’t a chance to engage in meaningful conversation. This is more of a drive-by, where you pepper out a few pithy remarks and then move on, action movie style, confident that the entire original argument is even now exploding in spectacular fashion in your wake. Ideally in slow motion. The more you actually write, the more people might have to use against you. And besides, this first response isn’t really designed to continue a discussion. It’s designed to bait the trap.

Ideally, don’t do any of this with people you know well. Certainly not with someone you might see in real life. Yes, this means you can hop onto a complete stranger’s post and start bashing away, but the really nuanced jerks will use these techniques with casual acquaintances. People you’re friends with just enough that they don’t feel like they can wholly ignore what you have to say. There’s a fine balance, but you’ll get the hang of it in time. Arguing with friends of friends works well also. And don’t forget: if they unfriend you, then you automatically win.

Once you’ve got someone responding to you, fight fight fight! It doesn’t matter if they’re a complete stranger. It doesn’t matter if they’re a dear friend to anyone else in the thread. They are the enemy, and they must be destroyed. Luckily, if you’ve done this right, they’re no longer discussing the original topic. They’re discussing your slice of it. Don’t let the debate shift to different ground, unless of course your argument starts to lose. (Jerks don’t lose arguments. They just move the goalposts.)

When it comes to actual points you’re trying to make, remember: the more fallacies you include, the better. Think of them like earning brownie points in Jerk Paradise. (We don’t have any evidence Jerk Paradise actually exists, but that never stopped us from believing something in the past.) What-aboutism is great: don’t answer any actual critiques of your argument, just bring up some unrelated point and change the playing field. Or attack the intelligence or personality or virtue of the opposing side. (Remember: they are the enemy. They must be proven wrong, and you can have no mercy!) Strawmen are free! Trot them out whenever possible. And don’t think of slippery slopes as something to be avoided. Think of them more like slip ‘n slides: something that’s fun for everyone (until the grass cuts, of course.) And there’s always the trusty appeal to hypocrisy. Everyone’s a hypocrite but you. That’s a fact.

Don’t forget: there is safety in numbers. Almost always, there will be an ally or three reading through the comments section. Don’t let a fellow jerk fight alone. Rush in to talk about how right they are. You can even just Like their comment if you don’t have time for anything more. It doesn’t matter whose arguments are better, at the end of it all. What matters is who got the most Likes. Social media is like one big applause-o-meter. And applause-o-meters are much easier to win.

Finally, when all else fails, remember the laugh emoji response is your Big Red Button. Maybe you don’t have enough time to do any of the above, but it only takes a second to slam that laugh emoji in response to someone’s detailed, heartfelt post. It’s great! Facebook gave you this little tool to passive-aggressively ridicule anyone you want in less than one second.

And there you have it! That doesn’t cover every single aspect of being a jerk, but it’s enough for the intro course. It may seem like a lot to master all at once, but don’t let that get you down. You don’t have to use all the techniques all the time. As you gain more experience, a lot of this will become second nature. Soon, you’ll be traipsing from post to post, upsetting everyone in your wake and having a blast, secure in your carefully protected conviction that you are right while everyone else is wrong.



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