Compassionate and Reasoned Communication in an Online World

I co-authored this manifesto with the amazing Aria de Satanas. As public Satanists in a time of COVID, we are both striving to uphold our Satanic values of compassion, empathy, and reason in online spaces. This article is the result. I hope you enjoy. Please check out Aria de Satanas’s work at https://ariadnedesatanas.com/ 

We live in an increasingly online world. With technological advances booming and Covid-19 keeping us indoors and at home, we rely on our online interactions more than ever. Be it personal or professional, communication on the internet is now a necessity.

But are we held to the same moral and ethical standards that we are held to in person, while online? Do those standards change at all? 

The following is an attempt to clarify our own moral standards for online engagement in an increasingly interconnected world. We list several important themes we wish to embody on the internet, and we explore how we live these themes individually. You are welcome to adopt or modify our suggestions for your own use.

Compassion

In our day to day lives we should always strive to be compassionate and empathetic, within reason. This should extend to all facets of our lives, including our online interactions. While we can easily adopt false personas online and surf anonymously, when we do interact, we always have a choice to engage justly and compassionately.

It is wise to always to engage with calm and reasoned responses. Calm responses can diffuse a conflict before it even arises, or at least slow the escalation. If someone deserves compassion or needs empathy, we should give it freely if we have the courage and strength. Never overextend yourself.

Contrast:
Aria – “I get quite a lot of messages throughout the day. Many of the folks that reach out are in need of compassion, empowerment and encouragement. If I have a few minutes to take out of my day to help, I take it! Don’t rise to obvious bait either – ignore it or disengage quickly.”

Stephen- “Like Aria, I receive a good number of messages from people seeking insight or validation. I do my best to provide support, compassion, and a listening ear. The far greater challenge is how to respond to people who are ugly on social media. My personal method is this: always assume they are acting in good faith. In practice, when people tell me I’m going to hell, I tell them that I understand their concern is genuine, and I thank them for their concern. I also tell them that, because I am a nontheist, I cannot take their concern seriously until I am convinced that the afterlife is real. I tell them that if they wish to learn more about me or Satanism, to not hesitate to ask. If it becomes evident that someone is not acting in good faith, I ignore them.”

Justice

If an argument arises and it is not diffused by reasoned compassion and empathy, the struggle for justice should begin. One must always be careful when becoming the arbiter of justice. We can only know any one situation from one perspective: our own. Online interaction is even harder because we usually do not see the person we are communicating with. We don’t know what their day has been like, or even their age or maturity level.

Reporting bad behavior and trolls can be satisfying. It removes that bit of reality from our lives and lessens the white noise that fills our inboxes and timelines. Cutting off people from the information that you share is a great way to stop harassment, but be ready to do so on every outlet you use. Stephen has a counterpoint that is also good to consider when facing adversity online.

Contrast:
Aria – “I generally only block people that are obvious trolls, bots or direct enemies. I like to take the time to discuss with people that disagree with me, within reason of course. I receive a lot of mail and messages. I do not have time for obvious unwanted nudity or harassment on my timelines. BLOCKED”

Stephen- “I personally try to never block people except in extreme circumstances, because being blocked gives people a badge of honor that further entrenches them in their views. Instead, I mute them or just unfollow them, so that I don’t get distressed by seeing what they say. Also, if I start to get distressed by what I’m seeing on social media, that’s my cue to log of for a while. However, I probably hold this view because I’m a dude, cis, and white, so my experience online is not nearly as fraught and existentially threatened.”

Reason

We have to be reasonable. The internet has billions of users. No matter what we do and where we go, someone is always watching our interactions. Taking a moment to think about what we post with a calm, reasoned mind can reduce typos, misunderstanding, and alleviate a lot of stress.

Context is very important to good communication. Sadly, context is the most frequently  lost piece of communication when texting or replying via an instant chat forum or thread. Without the context of each individual post, a conversation can be quickly lost. As a result, we must make a concerted effort to be as clear as possible.

Contrast:
Aria – “I try to always read my posts back to myself and spell check them before clicking send. In the process, it gives me a chance to rethink what I am posting from several angles. Responding off the cuff when you have plenty of time to respond via text, is wholly unneeded. Slow down.”

Stephen- “I give myself a cool off period. If someone sends me a frustrating or angering message, I force myself to wait a few hours before responding. This often allows me to think more clearly, and sometimes, I realize that the original message wasn’t offensive at all, and I was just in a bad place when I read it. I can’t assume that everything I immediately feel is true.”

Debate is Healthy

Don’t shy away from an argument. Healthy debate is a great way to change a mind or shed the scales from the eyes of believers. Be careful not to become toxic when debating, and try to keep calm and centered on the topic at hand.

Debate is an art, and not everyone masters it. It is best to practice arguing topics with friends so that you can learn how to keep debate topics and responses above the belt. Forming attacks during arguments and debates usually lead to a war involving the debating parties. In such a situation no side ever really wins.

Contrast:
Aria –
“It is VERY important to stay even headed and polite when debating. You control your actions, not theirs. If you do not know an answer to something, research it. Do not answer questions with speculation. Respectful but devastating.”

Stephen-
“I believe that asking people for evidence is a sign of respect. As such, I ask people to substantiate their claims. I also think it’s incredibly important to take debate off of social media platforms, because the context itself encourages escalation. I therefore try to funnel people away from twitter and facebook, and instead encourage them to engage me on discord, my website, and email.”

Respect

Respect can go a very long way in online interaction. Some of the most common things taught as children: “Please” and “Thank you” or “You’re Welcome” can go a long way. These simple additives to conversation online can change the entire tone of the discussion.

Respecting each other as equal human beings is the first step to good communication in any environment. Doing so online will make you much more successful at communication with those around you. Remember, everything you do online is there, “forever”. If you remain respectful online, you also develop better reputation and discourse.

Contrast:
Aria – “When you enter a conversation online, say hello, be courteous and direct. Respecting everyone like they are human beings is paramount. As a trans woman, I receive a lot of disrespectful messages and comments. I choose to ignore them, or reply curtly and calmly. Keeping others in mind when we talk is a form of genuine respect, even when they are attacking us. If you remain calm and logical, respect comes easier and many times as a byproduct of reason.”

Stephen- “I always remember that I am on a public stage, and people are watching my conduct. If I need to vent/blow off steam, I do so privately with friends or my boyfriend. We sometimes need to say uncharitable things to release stress, but it is not appropriate to do so on a public platform. I remember that I am always being watched, and my conduct matters.

Don’t be a Bully

The very last thing you want to become is a bully. Being an online bully is easy, and the lowest of low. The things we say and do online can hurt people, seriously or even lead to their death in extreme circumstances. If we see someone being piled on, don’t join the pile. It doesn’t matter how just we think the pile-on is – online justice frequently gets out of control, and we don’t want to contribute to unjust mobs.

If we really want to have successful, uplifting times online, we need to be part of the solution. The more positivity we put out, the more that we will get in return. This is not just a mantra to say. It is a challenging task to teach ourselves to be kind online, even when we don’t have to be.

Contrast:
Aria – “An uplifting message or comment from a friend can change our days for the better. Be that friend. If you see someone being dogpiled online, reach out to them. Don’t look for a fight, look for solutions. No matter what we do in our lives, we must be careful never to become “God”. We do not want to identify with a tyrannical figure. Be “Satan” online, stand up for yourself and for others who cannot or will not.”

Stephen- “I never, ever subtweet or comment on someone else’s conduct on twitter. Instead, I focus on putting out uplifting and encouraging content, and engage with my audience. Even if I think it just to denounce someone on twitter, the algorithmic laws of twitter make it likely that it will spiral out of control, and entrench everyone involved even more deeply into their beliefs.

Take a Break

Getting overloaded by social media is not uncommon. Human beings may be social creatures, but the world online offers much more than we are used to. We can hear about the latest music and view cute pictures of cats, but in between these posts we read about death, war and impending political doom. It adds up quickly.

Removing yourself from social media can sometimes be difficult. We like to know what is going on around us, even if we all define “around us” differently. One common way to “stay connected” while taking a “mental health break” from social media, is to stick to your DMs only. Replying to messages and socializing directly can be healthy and helpful in keeping away from the dread of the thread.

Take what you can and remember that social media is a tool for us to use. Becoming addicted to social media is possible, and becoming dependent on anything we don’t need to live can be dangerous.

Contrast:
Aria – “I take a few social media breaks a year. I usually only need a day or two away before I am ready to dive back in. On those days, I only take messages from a select few people. I have a very high capacity for the stresses that come with social media use.”

Stephen- “I frequently ask myself, “where am I living?” Meaning, what is taking up the majority of my headspace? Am I thinking about/constantly scrolling twitter, or am I mostly engaged in long-form content like books, film, podcasts, etc.? If the former, I am in critical danger of spiraling into mental unhealth, and I need to recalibrate how I use my time. I personally do this by banning social media completely on my phone, and only scrolling it on my laptop.

Be Careful What You Share

When you post anything on social media, it can be out there forever. With screenshot capabilities and data banking, your online interactions are always recorded. If you share extremely personal information, in personal messages or on the Facebook walls and Twitter threads etc., it will be banked and accessible for a VERY long time.

With quarantine, we have all been spending a very large portion of our days on social media. Complacency can set in quickly. Try your best to remember that your own security and well-being is of utmost importance. Not everyone online has your best interests in mind.

Contrast:
Aria – “
I post a lot online. I am quite careful with certain aspects of what I post, however. I don’t mind my nude body and words being out there. I do keep the thought in my mind whenever I post. Each time I remind myself that it could be around until long after my death.”

Stephen-
I have a few rules I follow to maintain a sense of privacy. I never share images of my partner, my satanic altar, or my home. These are sacred, private things for me. I also regularly ask myself: “is this thought better in my journal? Is this something I should process publically?” Some thoughts are better kept private.

Bring good into this evolving form of communication. Thyself is thy Master.

Be Kind and Hail Satan!

You can find Aria and Stephen on here:

Twitter
https://twitter.com/AriadneSatanas?s=20
https://twitter.com/stephenblong?s=20

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