What do you think about social media? How has it influenced us?
I believe social media has played a major role in our culture and in our development as human beings. I’m not talking about children, I mean that adults have changed as a result of social media. We’ve changed in some good ways and some bad ways.
Bullying in an Online World
Should we start with the bad? You’ve probably already worked that list out for yourself. Our cultural banter has become much less civil, probably because of the way online commenting allows us to feel like we’re not really talking to other human beings.
Would people speak to others in person as callously as they often do so online?
Some might. Most don’t, but people generally agree that social media has amplified bullying, meanness and the level of anger people are carrying around.
If you don’t believe me, ask Monica Lewinsky, one of the first ordinary citizens to experience it firsthand.
Business in an Online World
On the other hand, the Internet and social media have made it possible for anyone with access to a computer (this includes public computers) to start a business.
Not only can you sell your wares online, but you can build an audience of people who are interested in what you are interested in.
There’s just one problem…
Using Your Social Media for Good Instead of Evil
I notice that a lot of people are afraid to do live video and I think they have the same question I had when I started my first blog. Maybe you have it too.
Are people going to be mean?
Maybe, but you’re not defenseless. Here are a few tips to minimize the potential for drama and distress.
Trolls Not Invited
Whenever you post something, think about your audience. Who is watching? What are they going to feel when they see this?
I note that people often forget that the only people who see your posts on most social media feeds are your friends. Do you have friends who don’t think like you?
You might not know it, but you probably do.
You don’t have to be bland and refrain from ever expressing an opinion. Just don’t invite trolls to your party. In other words, if you feel the need to insult someone, do it privately.
Don’t say or imply online that people who disagree are somehow deficient.
If you respect your followers, they will respect you.
Don’t Be Afraid to Employ a Bouncer
Sometimes, people will say to me, “Bonnie, I can’t delete comments on my [blog, social media page] because then people will think I’m not open to other opinions.”
Unless you are conducting research surveys, do not worry about this.
Your pages are essentially private property AND you are shaping your brand with whatever is on them. You are allowed to have boundaries and you must enforce them to keep the page attractive to your target market.
Personally, I delete all comments that are rude, use profanity or insult someone. You can set up your own rules and you can block people who don’t follow them too.
Laughter is the Best Medicine (and Bland Politeness Ain’t Bad Either)
The more popular your pages become, the more likely you are to attract trolls. It’s an unfortunate fact of life these days.
Don’t let that stop you though. In fact, I highly recommend that you laugh privately and use bland politeness publicly.
Bland politeness is a method of politely and coldly stating the facts that tends to derail trolls and make them look a little foolish. You don’t have to insult them, usually you just have to point out the obvious.
Want an example? I once posted something like this in a homesteading group.
“I want to collect my coffee grounds for composting, but I don’t want to go outside. What does everyone use to collect them?”
One guy replied (and I’m paraphrasing), “This is a homesteading group, for crying out loud! You don’t belong here if you don’t want to go outside!”
I admit to being mildly annoyed, but I didn’t let it stop me. I replied to his comment.
“Settle down there, fella! It’s just dark and I don’t want to be eaten by a bear. The compost can wait until morning.”
Then I edited the main post to add… “Note: For those who are confused, I mean that I don’t want to go outside in the dark.”
This may not seem uproariously funny to you, but it was to me, and that’s all that really mattered.
I didn’t outright insult the troll, but I did divert him. His next comment was much more civil. In fact, I believe he gave me some good advice.
This works both online and in person.
Get Out There and Be Yourself
Whatever you do, don’t let the potential for bullying stop you from chasing your dreams. We want our social norm to be respectful and civil. Think of every action as a vote in an election. If you behave the way you want the world to be then you vote for that world.
Social media has affected our society and our interactions in ways we didn’t expect. I imagine that someday everyone will know how to behave online as well as in live society, but until then we can deliberately set an example for others.
It all comes back to that ancient Golden Rule. Treat others as you want to be treated.