Let’s take a little quiz, just for fun:
- How much time do you spend on social media each day? Add in all the platforms you use, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and more.
- How much of your news do you get from social media?
- If you use social media as a news source, do you trust it more than traditional sources like television news or major newspapers?
- Do you have specific sites or accounts you go to whenever you log on? Groups you visit, pages you want to catch up with? Or do you stick to your own newsfeed–on the platforms that have a newsfeed.
- Do you believe that most people you interact with use good manners? If they don’t, do you avoid them (unfriend or unfollow them) in the future?
There are no right answers, of course. But I found asking these questions helpful. As for spending too much time on social media? That one is probably the stickler for most of us.
The last question seems most important to me today. I’m aware how lucky I’ve been on my Facebook Page and the Read Along With Emilie Richards Facebook Group. My readers are thoughtful, supportive of each other, and just thoroughly nice folks. Until this week I never even knew that as the administrator of my page I could delete comments and in some situations ban people from posting. Then this week, a post I made that I considered to be positive and conciliatory about the results of our national election infuriated a visitor who, in my opinion, stepped over the line of polite behavior.
I didn’t know what to do. So I researched. In the end I deleted my post and all the comments that had followed, explaining in a new post that I want my page to be a fun, safe place where my readers can be together without stress and anxiety. While the poster insisted that she could say anything she wanted because my page was “social media,” I learned that indeed I can make sure she can’t say those things on my page.
Obviously since after many years I just learned this, restricting my readers’ rights of expression has never been high on my to do list.
I did begin to wonder, though, if there are any good rules each of us need to think about before we post, comment or simply pop on to read other people’s thoughts. This is a time of high anxiety on so many fronts. It’s easy to say things we wouldn’t usually say. So here’s my take on it.
In a nutshell I believe we need to think of social media as a party we’ve been invited to. We’re anxious to go and we want to make a good impression. Face-to-face with new acquaintances, we use our best manners. If we’re stuck interacting with someone we dislike or someone whose opinions infuriate us, we excuse ourselves and head for another conversational group. We don’t scream and yell and call them names because they’ve said something we disagree with. If we can’t tolerate their opinions, we seek out people we do feel safe and comfortable with.
In that small, safe group, we can make ourselves heard, and even argue a little because we know these people and what they can tolerate. We know how far to go before our friendship is in danger.
In addition to forming that analogy, I decided to do a little research. Here are some good ideas/rules for each of us to consider. You may know them already. But they bear repeating.
- Don’t be offended if a person you try to friend doesn’t accept your request. They may need to keep their friend list short. I know that I save most interaction for my Author Page and my short list of friends on my profile page are mostly family and very old friends. I rarely post there. I just want to keep up with them.
- Be sure you will be comfortable allowing a potential friend to see your content. Maybe they’re too young, old or too different. Give it some thought.
- Reserve friending for people you truly care about and trust.
- Adjust your settings frequently, especially those related to tagging and security.
- Don’t type anything you wouldn’t say to a person in real life.
- Remember tone is hard to discern from a post. Watch exclamation points and all caps. Use sparingly if at all. Be sure your meaning is clear.
- Name calling, insults and unproven conspiracy theories do not belong on social media. Remember your words may come back to haunt you, even if common decency doesn’t make you think twice.
- Don’t abuse hashtags. (If you don’t know what a hashtag is, then you are not guilty, so relax.)
- Don’t overshare. Remember that party I mentioned? Would you tell a stranger every detail of your last labor and delivery and pull out graphic photos of the birth? I didn’t think so…
So did you answer the questions at the beginning? Are you happy with your answers? If you feel like “sharing” we’re listening.