Are You Showing Civility
on Social Media?

Women Using Smartphones

Posts, pictures, videos, and comments are all over the internet today.  There are more social media networks than you can use in a day.  Well, more than most of us could use in a day.

While there is a lot of "traffic" in the ethers, it is for the most part invisible.  And 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.  All tools are key to achieving a desired end result, but they can only bring about that result if used appropriately.

Just as a hammer can drive a nail through two objects, or a sewing machine can stitch two pieces of cloth together, social media can help two or more people communicate with each other.

However, the hammer can also destroy an object.  A sewing machine can miss a stitch, or even injure someone, if not properly maintained.  And social media can incite anger, hurt, and in general offend others if not used in a positive way.

As in most areas of life, this is where etiquette rules can help keep things on track and serve as a "how to use" when it comes to 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?

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.
Online networking is just that - networking.  It should be used as if you were at a work event or cocktail party.  Your purpose of attending is to socialize, build your network of friends and associates, and communicate with like-minded people you enjoy spending time with.

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.
Make sure the information you post on someone's news feed or comment section is in line with the objective or personality of her page or post.  And never hack someone's account to post something as if it were coming from him!

Haters and Cyber-bullies

In the cyber world, as in the physical world, there are bullies - also referred to as 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!"

Once a hater engages you, you're in for a long, drawn-out fight.  Think of the social media posts you've seen where a hater posts a comment and the person who made the original post responds to the hater.  Then someone else chimes in, then another, then the hater responds to them, and on and on.  It essentially becomes like a schoolyard fight at recess!

Is this worth it?  Perhaps you ignore the haters or, better yet, delete their comments and replies to keep others from responding to them as well.  When you don't play their game the worst you walk away with is a bruised ego.  But taking the high road with the right mindset ensures a fast healing.

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.
  • Make sure that any sarcasm will be understood by those who read it.
  • Know that written words do not always come across with the intonation of spoken words.
  • Share a (cyber) smile!
  • Remain gracious and respectful.
  • Keep your responses relevant.

Now go forth and (virtually) socialize.  And have fun out there!

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