Remember “back in the day” when people in polite society didn’t discuss religion, sex or politics?
For whatever reason, people feel free to write whatever horrible things they’re thinking on Facebook, Twitter and even on LinkedIn occasionally (seriously, reserved for business info – respect the platform!). I was so much happier before I understood (especially) the political beliefs of my friends. I see comments every day that I can’t imagine these people saying to each other face-to-face.
Apparently there is a feeling that using Twitter or Facebook is somehow less personal or less offensive than saying it in person. In my opinion, quite the opposite. Putting something in writing, even on a virtual platform, is forever. Even when the writer has second thoughts and decides to delete the post, it doesn’t mean someone hasn’t already taken a screen shot and is sharing it all over the place. What happened to our Mother’s advice: if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all? (Full disclosure, MY Mom was in the other camp: if you can’t say anything nice…come sit next to me. But I digress.)
Some believe that an open dialog is healthy. When a dialog is respectful, when both parties are sincerely trying to understand the other’s point of view, it can be. I see none of that exhibited on social platforms. And, not for nothing, but no one is ever going to change anyone’s opinion on Facebook. (Except maybe through targeted propaganda content. Digressing again.) On the positive side, I also see memes with messages like: In a world where you can be anything…be kind. More of those, please!
So. Suggestions from someone who spends a lot of time on social media (it IS my job, after all…):
- Don’t be tempted to respond in kind when you read something that makes your blood boil. No good can come of it.
- Unfollow them on Twitter
- Hide them on Facebook (you can “hide” someone without unfriending them)
- Or, if it’s chronic, go ahead and unfriend them! (They won’t get any kind of notice, they’ll just not see your posts anymore.)
- Make a conscious attempt to share positive stories and posts that resonate with you.
- Say something nice or encouraging when you get the chance (not fake-y nice; sincerely nice)
- If you MUST make a claim about anything (seriously, resist!), back it up. Attach a link to the article you saw or the statistic you’re referencing. Don’t editorialize; let people make up their own mind about the information. Think Walter Cronkite (Millennials and younger: google him).
- Know that everything you post on social channels either reinforces or conflicts with your personal brand. Yes, you have one, even if you haven’t developed it intentionally and even if you are retired, not working in a professional capacity or associated with a business. Your personal brand is the expectation that people have when they interact with you. You’re building it little by little with every single post.
- Finally, check your settings. The concept that anything shared on a public platform is potentially public information still holds, but make sure you’re doing what you can to share your info intentionally. (Posts and photos can be shared to the public, friends only, friends-of-friends; know where you’re sharing your thoughts.)
One of the first “rules” I heard when people starting using social platforms in earnest is something I try to live by still today: Don’t put anything out there that would embarrass you if your grandmother saw it. Words to live by.
Barb Hendrickson is President of Visible Communication, LLC, President Emeritus of the Incentive Marketing Association and recipient of numerous Professional awards. Barb is a frequent speaker and trainer on Social Media, Storytelling, Using LinkedIn for Business, Incentives & Promotional Marketing and more.