A few weeks ago, a dear friend posted an honest question on Facebook about a controversial topic. I had some thoughts on the matter and took a quick glance at the existing comments on her post. Immediately my defenses rose and I noticed my anger level spiking as I saw the comments and links shared there. I quickly started to type out a response of my own but then I stopped and thought about the two ways the scenario could play out.
Option one—I comment and put myself out there even though I’m going against the tide of the other commenters. More and more commenters pile on and I feel horrible and judged simply for trying to share my opinion. I feel justified in my side, they feel justified in theirs, and we learn nothing. We all walk away feeling a little more angry and a little more self-righteous.
Option two (spoiler alert, I chose this option)—I click out of Facebook and engage this dear friend on a personal level via text message and see where it goes. I trust her heart in it and share mine with her, and we learn and grow together because of the relationship that we have. I don’t have expectations for the conversation that I initiate with her. We both leave the conversation a bit lighter and with food for thought.
Maybe you shouldn’t trust me on the topic of social media. I did just return from a nine month hiatus. For what it’s worth, though, here’s my advice for engaging on social media.
Ha. Wouldn’t that be nice?
Here are a few rules of engagement I’ll humbly submit:
- Think twice before posting. You absolutely have every right to post whatever you want. But does that mean you should? We can rise above our impulses and think about the effect that our words may have. For a long time my pendulum has swung far toward opting to have real life conversations over Facebook discussions.
- Related to 1: Engage people on a personal, one-on-one, basis. Ask yourself, am I posting this in hopes of it reaching one specific person? The more courageous and effective course of action would be to engage that person privately. You know what doesn’t change anyone’s mind? Spitting “facts” and “sources” back and forth on the Internet. You know what sometimes does? Sharing stories from the heart with vulnerability and giving honest perspectives.
- Practice non-attachment. We are not what we think about something. Read that again. You are NOT what you think about something. You’re so much more than your opinion. Can you think of any of your opinions that have changed over time? Hold them a bit more loosely. When someone attacks something you say or thinks differently, you don’t have to be threatened because that idea is not you.
- Remember that you’re the curator. Of course, you don’t want to create an echo chamber on your newsfeed full of people who completely agree with you. However, you have every right to unfollow. You can stop listening to any voice you don’t want to hear at any time. I think we forget that we have that control because we are constantly barraged with information. You can turn it off.
- Related to 5: Commenting a really good zinger and unfollowing someone on social media is not taking a stand. How are you really taking a stand? Letting people know you disagree with them doesn’t show your true convictions. What honest to goodness work are you doing to make the world a better place? What opinions actually cost you something? The world doesn’t change from behind our keyboards.
I have very conflicted feelings about social media. It has connected people in ways never possible, but at the same time has revealed more division than ever before. If I’m being totally honest, Facebook terrifies me. People feel okay about tearing total strangers to shreds on the Internet. Sometimes I feel up to facing the criticism; other times I don’t. But like I’ve said before, fear is not my master. I’ve learned to set boundaries with when and how I engage with social media to keep a healthy relationship with it. I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments on how you engage with social media!