Good Comments, Bad Comments

I’m making this post so I can reference it later.

Dear Commenter’s,
If you’re going to comment on an article and leave a ridiculous comment, most people find them entertaining yet totally moot. If you want your opinion to count even an iota, express your feedback in a constructive manner.

When a person simply flames another person….I visualize them as the insane guy on the street corner yelling gibberish at other pedestrians:

What you look like.

I recently did a Homeless Experiment which delivered some pretty strong opinions on homelessness. In fact, I concluded that in my opinion I will no longer give money to homeless people holding signs in certain areas of Austin. This statement alone can elicit a fair amount of criticism because some people interpret it as “I am commanding you to NEVER give money to ANY homeless person ANYWHERE.”

Here’s an example of a person who very much disagrees with me, but clearly explains what he’s disturbed about, and even offers solutions. When I view this comment, I see this guy as intelligent, calm and someone I should probably listen to:

Nev, I’m the president of an agency that houses homeless families in Durham, North Carolina. I’ve been following your “experiment” with interest.

I must say I have mixed feelings. I find it admirable that you seemed to want to gain some understanding of how people very different than yourself live. But you seem to have viewed the experience as a lark or an adventure, a personal challenge or growth experience, a bizarre vacation rather than anything deeper. And it really bothered me to hear you keep saying how easy it is to be homeless. Sure it is, if being homeless is optional, if you didn’t have to really experience the final crisis (and the series of crises leading up to that) that makes most people homeless (eviction, illness, layoff, divorce, domestic violence that’s so bad that you finally leave), if at any minute you can go back to your 4,000-square foot loft and take a shower, and if that’s what you do after a few days. When you know you have a college degree and a good job.

I was also hoping you might express a desire to get involved to help homeless people in Austin in some way. I’ve read the whole blog, and I haven’t seen any inclination toward that yet, though you did seem to gain some understanding of the people you

I’d like to challenge you to volunteer at the ARCH or another agency that helps the homeless. It would also be nice for you to at least donate $50 or whatever to the shelter to make up for moral transgression of crowding a truly homeless person out of a bed that night you stayed there. (Nev Note: which I did partially thanks to this comment)

What I’m most wary about is that some people may read your experience as “evidence” that homeless people are not worthy of our help because they have it easy or because they are making poor decisions. Emergency shelters like the ARCH are an important community resource, but we also need agencies that help the homeless solve their problems (addiction, mental health, education, illness) and attain maximum self-sufficiency long-term.

Each of us fortunate to have more than enough has a moral obligation to share with and try to help our neighbors in need who were born without the advantages we have. So I agree you should never give money to a person begging on the street — you are often enabling addiction, and you are certainly enabling continued homelessness. But all of us who enjoy plenty should give money and time to agencies working to help homeless and other less fortunate people find long-term stability and return as contributing members of society.

Bryan Gilmer

See how eloquent that was? I’d say if anyone made me feel even remotely bad about taking up space in a homeless shelter for this experiment it was this comment. All the “You’re a stupid asshole” comments in the world can’t do that. He even agreed with my “no giving money” policy to homeless people with signs, but quickly noted the money could go other places that would be helpful to society.

So while this gentleman didn’t agree with many things, he didn’t make his comment a personal attack that would’ve fallen on deaf ears. Therefore his comment was actually read and taken to heart….and whoever else sees his comment will definitely listen to his opinion.

Here’s why I say don’t leave poorly constructed criticism…IT DOESN’T HAVE AN IMPACT.

If I read this:

Anonymous said:
How cute… an affluent geek pretends to be homeless for a few days with a sleeping bag and thinks he can make sweeping moral generalizations. How about you learn a little more about the mental health issues surrounding homeless (most of whom are vets) before you pretend to know what you are talking about.

….before even finishing the comment I have a million comebacks:

  1. I already stated I could never truly get a full homeless experience in such a short time and knowing I have other options.
  2. I never made sweeping moral generalizations. I always state these are things I observed in my tiny bubble of an experiment in certain parts of Austin, TX. (which I mention is very homeless-friendly many times).
  3. More about mental health? Ok sure….what resources are good? What books have YOU read? Do you actually know ANYTHING about this subject at all? I have previously done work with homeless shelters and HAVE seen true mental cases…but not every homeless person is a mental case. YOU sir are making broad generalizations.

You see? I barely listen to this comment because I have more retort than they have comment. It’s like arguing with a really irrational or stupid person….it just isn’t worth the time to bother.

So next time you have an ignoramus comment, please save it for YouTube!

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