Are You Showing Civility
on Social Media?

Women Using Smartphones

When you're not physically present with others, it is easy to forget that civility on social media is just as important as civility in any other social arena.

The Proper Use of Tools

Social media are web-based communication tools that help share information quickly and efficiently.  They are key to achieving desired communication results, but they can only bring about those results if used appropriately.  

Any tool can be misused and can be dangerous.  An improperly used hammer can destroy an object; you can injure yourself using a sewing machine if you haven't been instructed on use.  An unsharpened saw can bring unintended injury.  if not used in a positive way social media be injurious by spreading rumors and lies, and carelessness can cause hurt and incite anger. 

As in most areas of life, this is where etiquette rules can help keep things on track and serve us in the same way as "how to use" rules do when it comes to using tools. 

The basic rules for any tool are:

  • Handle it correctly.  
  • Handle it safely.
  • Have a purpose for using it. 
  • Treat the tool with respect.
  • If it’s someone else’s tool, respect the rules for its use.

The Rules of Civility on Social Media

Social Media Tools

Let's apply the above guidelines specifically to social media:.

Handle it correctly.
The basic purpose of social media is to be  . . . social.  Are you reaching out to others in a positive manner?  Is your content in line with your objective?  Is your spelling and grammar up to par?  Are you building rather than destroying?

Handle it safely.
Playing it safe on social media can be tricky.  You want to be social but, let's face it, you probably don't know all of your followers personally.  Be cautious and mindful about posts or pictures that show your home or work address, your travel schedule, and your valuable personal belongings.

Have a purpose for using it.
Social media networks are about networking, socializing, and sometimes announcing and conveying information you think is important in this day and age.  Before you post anything, ask yourself, "What is my purpose in posting this?"

Treat the tool with respect.
When used carelessly, social media can bring harm to people.  But when used correctly, safely, and in the spirit of its original purpose, its usually a fun experience!

If it's someone else's tool, respect the rules for its use.
You may want to post something on someone's page.  Have you asked them first?  Is there another way to communicate?

Detractors and Cyber-bullies

In the cyber world, as in the physical world, there are bullies - also referred to as detractors or haters.  No matter which term you use, you can bet they are not very nice people and they always have a contrary opinion.

The best way to handle these folks, just as in the physical world, is to avoid them as best you can and do not engage with them.  Or, as a friend of mine says, "Don't play their game!"  Simply "unfriend" or the equivalent.

Once a bully-type engages you, you're in for a long, drawn-out fight.  Think of the social media posts you've seen where a detractor posts a comment and the person who made the original post responds.  Then someone else chimes in, and it goes on and on.  It essentially becomes like a schoolyard fight at recess or worse. 

Is this worth it?  Perhaps you ignore the bullies or, better yet, delete their comments and replies to keep others from responding to them as well.  Taking the high road with the right mindset ensures a fast ending.

If you are using an all-public networking site or otherwise don't have control of monitoring replies and comments to your posts, contact the site administrator or help desk and report the cyber-bully. 

Civil Responses

Though you may not have control of the behavior of others, you certainly have control of yourself and your level of civility on social media.  Ensure that you always:

  • Create posts, comments, and replies with positive intent.
  • Do not use sarcasm.
  • Intonation does not work with the written word on social media.
  • Remain gracious and respectful.

Virtual communication is the main avenue for socializing in the age of the coronavirus.  Aim to be the best you can be.

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