We need to be better people, especially on Facebook. Social media has such potential. I’ve stayed in contact with old friends who before social media would have been long forgotten. I’ve met new people with whom I would have never had knowledge of without Facebook. I’ve engaged conversations, learned insights, and gained deeper perspectives all because of the diversity of friends which social media creates.
But for all the benefits of social media, its downsides are many.
It makes every voice seem equal. While leveling the playing field can be good, not every voice is equal. My doctor and I are both free to have medical opinions, but his opinion is more important than mine. He is the expert. Social media takes away expertise and makes all opinions appear equal; they aren’t.
It tempts us to be childish. A child looks for any evidence which defends their point and uses it to win an argument. An adult knows better. An adult realizes life is complex and attempts to play fair when debating issues and facts. It’s tempting on social media to forget fairness and to do whatever it takes to win an argument–twisting words, using pictures without context, reposting naive memes.
It results in us being mean. People will often type things on Facebook which they would never say in person. Normally polite, patient, and peaceful people can become biting, bitter, and bombastic when hiding behind the anonymity of social media. Facebook demands more social awareness and restraint, not less. Many times we are not willing to give the effort required. (See: Stop Breaking the Ninth Commandment on Facebook)
We can do better. We can maximize all the strengths of social media while minimizing its dangers. But to do so, we must take some specific steps.
5 Ways to Be Better People on Facebook
1. Debate the Best. The temptation in any debate is to find the worst person who has the worst idea on the opposing side and to make them out as the average person on the other side. It’s an effective way to win a debate, but it’s not a productive way to be a good person. Instead, we should debate the best. Find the wisest, most humble, most well-thought out person holding an opposing view and interact with them. You may not agree, but you are far less likely to become judgmental.
2. Apologize Often. If you do not regularly apologize, both publicly and privately, on social media, you aren’t doing it right. The more you engage, the more you will need to apologize. We all make mistakes–we misunderstand, are misunderstood, take things personally, make things personal, and just get it wrong. When you make mistakes, apologize. Say you are sorry and try again. Let others know that you want to play fair and that when you don’t, you will own it. If you’ve never said I’m sorry on Facebook, either start doing so or delete your account.
3. Ignore the First Punch. Most Facebook fights could be avoided if someone is willing to ignore the first punch. Something is said that seems personal. If instead of fighting back, one person would humbly joke back or restate the issue, many fights wouldn’t happen. Instead, we often attack at the slightest sign that we feel we are being attacked. By ignoring the first punch, we will fight less. (See: How to Argue Less and Love More)
4. Be Skeptical About Your Self. The more something confirms your thinking, the more skeptical you should be about it. We are all tempted to believe those things which confirm our beliefs. It’s called confirmation bias. The faster you believe a story, stat, picture, or meme recognize the temptation of confirmation bias. Do extra work to check the source, confirm the story, and make sure the meme isn’t oversimplifying a complex issue.
5. Avoid Passive-Aggressive Posting. Never post something on social media which is intended for one person. If you have a message for a person, send it to them. Do not post the message on social media. If you must, put their name on the post. It’s cowardice to post something you know is directed at one person, but you are too scared to name them. (See: How to Deal with Passive Aggressive People)
Social media is part of modern life. It’s not another world. It’s not a place where rules don’t apply. Who we are on social media is part of who we actually are. Being unfair, rude, lacking compassion, childish, and being a jerk on social media is no different than doing those things in person. We can do better. And when we do, social media can be a tremendous gift bringing us information, understanding, and connections which we could not have otherwise.
What would be a 6th way to be a better person on Facebook?
Photo courtesy Creative Commons.