Jerod Santo changelog.com/posts

The human on the other side of that <textarea>

It’s easy to forget that there’s a human on the other side of that <textarea>.

Because it’s all text-based communication, and because all of the cruft and all of the stuff of life that you’re bringing to your laptop today. And I’m halfway around the world and I’ve got all my own stuff that I’m bringing. And we’re just typing into a thing and hitting Submit or Send

We see an avatar. Maybe it’s a picture of your face. Mine’s just a weird, green blob. (A representation of me when I was 18 years old.1)

So we tend not to give people the benefit of the doubt on the internet.

That’s one of the reasons why I’ve always loved podcasts, and one of the reasons why we get way less blowback on things that we say that are stupid on our podcast, or mis-representations, or whatever it happens to be.

Because there’s an empathy with voice that lacks without it… And people just give podcasters that benefit of the doubt because they can tell this is just a person talking.

They can hear your voice. There’s inflection. They can hear doubt if you’re saying the words, whereas if you just typed the exact same words the doubt is removed…

A lot of the malice and the way that we treat each other online, is because we’re just so abstracted away from the human on the other side of that <textarea>

If we just were more aware of that and thinking about that… And thinking, “How is this gonna affect this person’s day? What I say about their open source project.” or whatever it happens to be.

Well, I think that we would all be a little bit better off.


Now for the fun part

I have a confession: I did not write the above article. This article was fully written by GPT-3. Were you able to recognize it? Just kidding! 🤣

I spoke the above on our Hacker Laws episode with Dave Kerr. I listened back to it the other day and it turns out I agree 💯% with myself… So I figured it’d be worth the effort to turn that section of the transcript into a proper post so people who don’t listen to the podcast2 could benefit from it as well.

If you’d like to listen, click here to start the episode at that timestamp.


  1. I have since replaced the blog with a real picture of me to help establish a bit more empathy in text-only conversations.

  2. You should totally listen to the podcast! 😉


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