I heard it all through my childhood, drilled into my head by my parents and teachers throughout the years: Think before you speak. I think I have taken their advice to heart and I try my best to not make any ill-advised or spur of the moment statements that result strictly from passion. As I am a very quiet person by nature, when it comes to face-to-face confrontation, I am pretty good at not making regrettable comments.
However, thanks to the proliferation of social media over the recent years, the shy guy like me now has the option to spout off heat of the moment statements whenever a Facebook status update or tweet appears that I don’t like. Thankfully, because I work in a position where I deal very regularly with social media and see the good and ugly involved with it, I usually stay away from these tempting, but unforgiving, opportunities.
As a society living in the twenty-first century with social media as a very valuable tool, we need to hold ourselves accountable the exact same way we do in other social situations. Mainly, we need to refrain from typing rash comments without thinking. Now I have posted about people using social media to cause drama or to offer their lame ideologies and drawn out opinions when it comes to athletics but this is a whole different topic. Again, tonight I am specifically talking about not giving into the temptation of immediately posting whatever comes to mind.
We all know it and feel it but let me state the obvious…everyone feels a lot stronger and cooler behind a computer or an iPhone. Ego goes up and accountability goes down. When a status, a picture, or a tweet appears on the screen that you might not agree with or appreciate, it really becomes all too hard not to say something. I mean might as well stand up for what you believe in and take on the hero role, right? Who knows, your witty comment/reply could get a whole bunch of “likes” or retweets. The problem is, when you respond with the first thought or opinion that comes to your head, you usually come off as angry, bitter, and not very smart.
Because as part of my job I manage a social media network with over 100,000 people in constant dialogue about a very passionate subject, I see people make fools out of themselves all the time. Usually when someone makes a dumb remark, I will let the online community police it themselves and put the person in their place. After all, I am very fortunate to have a majority of classy, intelligent users who make up our audience. Only when someone makes a comment that is so off base and egregious will I step in as the administrator and set the record straight.
Even though I could call on several examples from what I do professionally, I would rather just keep it more general. When posting any comment on a social media platform, do it carefully and tactfully. If it is an issue that you are very passionate about, clearly think about what you want to say before you start typing away. Once you know exactly what you want to get across, I suggest typing out the comment on a Word document. By doing this you will protect against sending something accidentally when you don’t intend to AND protect against spelling/grammatical errors. There is nothing that makes a person look more like a dumbass than when they post something that is filled with anger and spelling mistakes.
Once you have crafted your message, sit on it a little bit before pasting it into whatever social media platform you are using. When it comes to e-mail, my boss always says to wait a full day after composing an e-mail that expresses anger/disappointment/controversy before actually sending it. Because social media issues are a little more timely as dialogue moves much faster, I suggest waiting an hour before sending out your thoughts. I know this might seem like overkill for a 160 character opinion or a Facebook status comment but in reality it is not. Remember, you are dealing with your reputation.
Just a few points:
Do delete a Facebook comment you make that is stupid. If you unfortunately post something that you should not have, or something that is inaccurate, get rid of it. Yes, you still will take heat for posting it and you do concede defeat when you take down your comment but it is better than leaving it up there for people to continue to see. Side Note: My friend Chris (another person who monitors lots of social media) and I have a tally going on the number of people who rescind their comments by deleting them after they are presented with the facts…just a small victory for us.
Don’t immediately cast judgment as live events unfold. This point usually pertains to sporting events. Many times a bang-bang play will occur that is very close and people will immediately jump to Twitter or Facebook to complain that a bad call was made, especially if they happen to be at the event in person and do not have all of the television replays at their disposal. Don’t be that guy who blasts an umpire or referee when in fact the right call was made. That is just embarrassing.
Do keep comments positive as much as possible. If you do have the need to post about something immediately, make sure it is positive. Always cast your comments and posts in an optimistic light. Do your best not to come across as bitter. Stay away from commenting on posts that already have a negative slant. Remember, split second negative responses rarely come out eloquently.
Don’t talk about a situation or topic that you know nothing about. I can’t stress this one enough. This applies not just for posting on a whim but for posting period. Stick to what you know. Never try to interpret another person’s posts either, especially if it is someone you don’t know. Again, there is no honor in volunteering your input on something you don’t have a clue about.
Keep utilizing social media for the many good things it offers. Don’t feel like you have to be the first person to comment or tweet. Remember, there is no one sitting next to you with a gun to your head forcing you to immediately post something while you sit at your computer or dabble on your iPhone. Take it easy and take it slow. Don’t Blink.