It was the mantra we all had drummed into us, as we took our first, tentative steps into the social media age; a piece of advice as important and formative as "look right, then left, when crossing the road".
Inevitably, some of us got taken out by cars, but that was how things were back then. We all learned the rules. Sometimes the hard way, but it helped.
And then Gamergate happened, and the trolls suddenly had a greater purpose. A banner to rally behind. Strength in numbers.
We don't need to recap the origins of Gamergate, but it was the catalyst/starting gun for a sackload of - mostly - repressed, oppressed, right-wing, white, ragemales to attempt to seemingly get their own back on a life and a world they felt they'd lost control of. And now that cultural war, which has been raging for the past 18 months or so, has gone to the next level.
If you're on Twitter, you might've noticed that in the last 24 hours or so there's been this thing trending, called 'The Triggering'. Frankly, it might as well have been called "The Trollering" - given that it's basically a mass attempt - by the aforementioned, mostly right-wing, white males (for the most part) - to provoke a reaction in the name of free speech.
What this translates to, of course, are the inevitable rape jokes, transphobia, racism, body-shaming, support for Donald Trump... Not so much free speech, as hate speech. That's essentially what they're fighting for: the right to be able to say overweight people are ugly, and trans people are mentally ill, without getting criticised for it.
Truly, a struggle for the ages.
The Triggering started with an idea: 24 hours of social media "free speech" tagged #TheTriggering - as a way of using inflammatory emotional trigger words to provoke Social Justice Warriors, feminists, "cultural marxists", and the like.
Yes - I know. Why would anyone bother, right?
But bother they did, thanks to a website called Age of Shitlords, who declared it a way to fight back against what was labelled "Feminist social media", that "has been cracking down on liberal, libertarian and conservative opinions which oppose their Disneyfield, 'safe spaces' policy".
It's repellent and repugnant, obviously, but it seems to have worked for the most part - at least, as far as an organised demonstration goes (commendably, their targets have - on the whole - wisely kept quiet for once, rather than give the trolls what they seek).
THE POWER OF THE THING
Here's the thing, though. If these people are fighting back, it's because they have something they feel they need to fight back against. Unfortunately - and this isn't going to be a popular opinion - there are times when I do wonder if political correctness has gone too far.
Whether people have become too knee-jerk sensitive to every last thing... and that those of us who are somewhat more moderately liberal have spent too long bowing down to that, and going "There there...", instead of going "Er... maybe get a bit of perspective?".
You see, you are never, ever, ever, going to change the Gamergaters, or the The Triggerers, or the Shitlords, or whatever you want to call them. No matter how well you present your case, or stamp your foot, or point out the wrongness of their behaviour... you won't change them. The more you push political correctness, the less flexible you are, the more inflexible they'll become.
It's something people in abusive relationships must learn: you're not going to change that other person. Those glimmers of kindness you see in them will always be followed by another shitty comment, or dinner plate thrown at the wall.
The only real power you have in that relationship is to get out. And that's what needs to happen now: anyone who is offended by Gamergate, or The Triggering... needs to step away, and stop making it worse. Carry on with what you're doing, and don't engage. They want to feel they've upset you: it makes them feel in control.
Bear in mind that in 100 years time, society is going to look back on today and be stunned that anybody was ever considered less than equal. Trust me. Everything is going in the right direction. Broadly speaking, we're in a good place. We've come a long way already.
By staying put, crying foul, coming across like a victim, all you do is fan the flames and make them stronger. It's exactly what they want. You empower them and prove their argument. You give them a cause.
I fear that The Triggering is a depressing - but utterly inevitable - response to the rise of more extreme socially progressive views, and this out-of-control political correctness we're seeing. If you push against something too hard, it's going to resist even harder. It risks turning a dying breed into a crusading army of righteous martyrs.
Look. Don't get me wrong here. It's important to challenge the status quo. It's important that nobody is any less equal than anybody else.
Without the Suffragettes, without the Civil Rights movement, without Stonewall - our society would be in a much more backward and unpleasant place.
But what I sometimes see with Social Justice Warriors - and for the record I HATE that term - is every bit as reactionary as what I see from Gamergaters, or whatever we call them.
I'm a father to three daughters, step-father to another three, I've two sisters and two foster sisters. I'm surrounded by women. I've also got straight, gay, and trans relations and friends. I know one too many people who have been the victim of sexual assault. Thin, fat, black, white... heck - I've even got nephews who fought in Afghanistan.
And you know what? Nobody I actually know in real life would dream of going online and whingeing about their lot. You know why? Because they're just getting on with life. They're not wandering through the world with their open wounds on show, waiting for someone to brush against them, so that they can cry foul. They've better things to do. Bringing up kids, or going on holiday, or making dinner, or walking the dog.
Some of the rhetoric I read online is so over-the-top, so patronising, so lacking in restraint, or perspective, or empathy, that it's no wonder the more unhinged elements of the right-wing will lash out against it. They feel oppressed, because it does feel like political correctness has gone too far. I hate to say it, but when they categorise some people as "cry-babies", part of me thinks they've got a point. And I hate that I think that!
For some reason, I studied person-centred pyschotherapy for two years, eventually dropping out just as I got my fitness to practice. I started to feel that talking therapies can often be misused or misunderstood. Too often it's illness-focused, rather than wellness focused, and - frankly - there are too many terrible therapists out there.
I saw first hand that clients often will present themselves as wounded, or struggling, yet be quite comfortable in their pain. They'll be used to it, having allowed themselves to be defined by it, like a comfy pair of shoes that might be well-worn, but are otherwise not fit for purpose. They don't know anything better.
When therapy goes wrong it's because the therapist colludes with the client. Instead of empowering them to grow, they sympathise rather than empathise. Both parties come at the therapeutic relationship from a rather narcissistic perspective, and it isn't beneficial. It's the difference between going "You poor, poor thing..." and "Well, what can you do to change it?". The latter, tough as it might be to hear, works. The former doesn't.
And sometimes I wonder if that's what I see writ large with - for want of a better term - the Social Justice Warrior movement: collusion, people staying in their pain, rather than truly wanting to escape it, and being surrounded by those who facilitate that... and it has led to The Triggering.
I feel there needs to be some sort of mass getting-over-yourself. I hate that the extreme nature of the discussion has lead to this - not a backlash against political correctness, but truly a deeply ugly insight into just how unpleasant human beings can be.
That said, while the rhetoric used on Twitter has been foul, I'm loathe to criticise it too much, purely because I don't want to give them the benefit of getting exactly what they wanted - moral outrage from liberal pansies like myself. They're ghastly pricks, obviously, but that's exactly what they want us to say.
I don't want to live in a world where Twitter is dominated by comments that are designed to hurt others - but the Triggerers smell weakness, and use it to hurt. If you are too wounded to be unable to go online without that happening to you, then please take some responsibility for yourself. You have a choice. As hard as it might be to accept, you're only making things worse for everyone.
Unless, y'know, that's exactly what you want...?