Social media is great for connecting people, sharing ideas and easily expressing opinions. It is woefully inadequate for debating. In fact, I think that debating on social media is largely counterproductive. It may feel good to express your opinions or criticize. It feels good to be on a soap box or to be a champion of a cause. I am certainly guilty of it myself, even when I’m aware of the problem. But I try to remember,
“Shutting up people who disagree with you is not the same as changing their mind.”
Most debating just promotes resentment, defensiveness and for people to crawl away to their corners. In my opinion, that is the main cause of the polarization in our society. What we need is for people to be able to listen. If you want to change someone’s mind, you don’t call them out in public. You take them aside, let them know you care, try to understand their point of view and gently encourage them to consider how they could do things better. This requires 2 things:
Tact and relationship.
Remember, social media is still a relatively new invention and new inventions like this transform society. And it takes a while for society to form rules on how to properly use new technology.
I propose that it is time to form a:
Social Media Code of Conduct
*** If you need to correct, criticize or change someone’s mind because of what they posted, do it over the phone or in person.***
1) if you don’t have a relationship with them to do that, you don’t have a relationship to effectively change their mind, it only promotes resentment in the world.
2) If you are not willing to put in that effort, that is a sign you are not willing to put in the effort to be understanding, tactful or respectful in your internet response either, so your efforts will be ineffective and only promote resentment in the world.
“It is too easy to be hurtful on the internet”
Now, I know many people will promptly argue that there is so much hate and ignorance in the world, they need to fight against it. And they also want to make sure to champion the rights of their friends and speak up for them in order that they know they are not alone.
I am not proposing that we just ignore bad behavior. If you feel you have to speak up, then phrase your replies in terms of speaking to those other people you are fighting for. Tell them that you agree with them and you are with them and what you believe.
But rise above, be the better person and leave out the comments directed at calling out bad behavior. When you feel you are right and feel obligated to try to change someone’s mind, remember that calling someone, or their ideas, ignorant, hateful, wrong, etc. on the internet simply does not work. It builds up walls, resentment and shuts down conversation. Again, if you really want to change someone’s mind, do it privately and lovingly.
And of course, there will always be extremists and close minded people. But your responsibility is not to change them, your responsibility is to stand up for what you believe in, in the right way. The ends do not justify the means.
So, if you agree with this Code of Conduct, please:
1) Adopt this code of conduct for yourself
2) Explain it to others (preferably in person, or you can share)
“be excellent to each other” – Bill S. Preston, Esq.