Destination Postopia: Making Social Networks More Peaceful

I’m just as guilty as everyone else is: Being bolder online than I am in person. While it’s no secret that I’m opinionated, I actually am selective about what opinions I throw out there. I have gotten angry and posted things that I wound up regretting. I have fired back messages before really thinking about the situation. In a weak moment, I will take the bait and argue just to feel like I’ve said my piece. But, I’m slowly learning THIS IS NOT OKAY.

In previous posts, I’ve repeatedly addressed the frustration (and sometimes fury) I feel with people who act like their opinions are more valuable than mine or the nonessential arguments that get started with a simple expression of anything (the weather, a political phone call, Black Friday, and most recently football). These feelings are unnecessary and unproductive. Short of this blog (which I kind of feel like is my take-it-or-leave-it outlet for whatever opinions I’m stewing on), I think maybe preferences should be secret. Maybe there are purposes for each social media site, and when carefully considered, maybe the only venue for debate should be in person among friends.

I’ll start with this blog. Are there things on here that people may take personally or find fault with? Sure. But this is just my space. It’s here because I like to write, and for some reason some people like to read what I write. If people ever see something they don’t like, they should stop reading. I don’t like to argue, and arguing is never my goal. People who come here do so to read my thoughts, so beware I guess. I’m one overly analytical gal.

Next is Twitter. Twitter is pure evil but so much fun. I think of it as a guilty pleasure. If you want to see the worst part of a person, read their tweets. At its best, Twitter is random observations published 160 characters at a time. These are rarely meaningful but always amusing. At its worst, it’s a competition to see how much venom you can pack into a small punch.  Because the character count is limited, angry people will try to squeeze as much hatred into that tweet as they can, and it can be effective judging by the drama of my students.  For the most part, people view twitter with a light heart; and everyone sees it for what it actually is:  a silly way to document one’s every meaningless thought.  On the rare occasion that feelings are stung on twitter, unfollowing and blocking are easy and private, which is nice for an overanalytical all-in-her-feelings lass like myself.

Finally, Facebook. Facebook is the best at keeping in touch with people. Through this site I am able to share parts of my day, pictures of my family, and have people who are separated by time and distance feel like we’re connected again. If used for more than that, like a platform for venting or airing anger, it can really stir up trouble. Even when the intentions are harmless, because it’s not in-person, your words can be misunderstood.
So how can I avoid this? Stressing about Facebook drama is hardly in my schedule. Here are my simple solutions, which apply to all sites where human interaction is involved:

*Post happy. This advice has been around since the beginning of Facebook. It stems from the idea that “if you don’t have something nice to say, you shouldn’t say anything at all.” Don’t put the possibly argument-starting thought out there, and no argument will be started.

*Keep it personal. Not too personal or creepy personal. But if I must post a complaint, I should keep it restricted to things that no one would find an objection to. My hatred for folding socks. My agonizing burn from the hair straightener. My dog’s insistence that he chew up furniture. These things are so specific to my life that they can’t really offend anyone else or spark a debate.

*Don’t say things you wouldn’t say in person. I feel like I’m pretty good at this one, but others not so much. You shouldn’t ever comment or post something that you wouldn’t say directly to the person. It’s similar to the rule that you shouldn’t really accept friend requests from people you wouldn’t say hello to in Wal-Mart. The internet should not give you courage you don’t have in public, and it shouldn’t keep you from considering the feelings of those who read what you type.

*To get along, go along.  There are sooooooo many posts that I don’t agree with.  Political posts, religious posts, ways that folks spend their time/raise their kids/cook their meals.  Don’t even get me started on selfies.  That’s another blog for another day. However, I think it is a social skill to read something you find disagreeable and go along.  Not go along in the sense that you endorse or agree, but go along as in “go along down your feed and get over it.”  This world takes all kinds, and that cliché didn’t become a cliché by meaning just YOUR kind.  Make the internet a kinder place by keeping your response to yourself.  Chances are the person doesn’t want it anyway.

*Toughen up and get some thicker skin.  This one is my main trouble area.  Not everyone will like you; you don’t have to like everyone.  You do have to play nicely. Even when it’s a computer in front of you and not a person.  Even when people aren’t extending the same kindness to you.  Even when you’re being ridiculed by people who post ridiculous pictures of themselves in the bathroom mirror.

So here’s my take on improving the world of social networks.  Believe me, I need about as much work as anyone…except with the selfie thing.  I’ve got that one covered.

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