Being on social media nowadays reminds me of the school yard playground when I was a kid. Pretty much everything went unnoticed by the monitors unless a fight broke out or someone ended up taking a spill off the jungle gym.
To survive, you had to learn to look out for yourself. Dust yourself off and keep walking.
Why are we so attracted to this medium? Is it for entertainment and news, to keep up with friends and family, to build a brand and sell a product, or has it become so much a part of our culture we cannot look away?
Whatever the reason, you have several options in order to survive the social media playground. You can play it safe; you can read and not post or respond. You can choose what you read, deleting posts you find offensive. You can unfriend and block “friends,” especially those who continually criticize and taunt you, thereby keeping only those who agree with you.
Or you could jump into the fray. You can post or respond, but remember once you do, you make yourself visible to the schoolyard bullies. You might have to defend yourself, especially if the topic is controversial.
Before you do, let me suggest a few things.
1. Read the whole post, not just what shows on the feed, but click on the link and read the whole post, all the way to the end. Follow it to its origin, even if it takes you to the Internet. Double and trip check its sources. Sometimes the thumbnail that was posted on social media is incorrect and intentionally malicious.
2. Learn which news sources and “fact checkers” are reliable and trustworthy. Examine their facts and sources. Be skeptical of those who rush to be first to report and post “news” before sources and facts have been double checked. News on social media nowadays is a mix between scandal rag and propaganda, so don’t trust it without checking it for yourself first.
3. Know yourself. You don’t have to confess it on social media but know what will trigger you into a response before tempering your words. Admit your biases and prejudices. Admit that your religious, political, and personal experiences affect how you “see” and feel things. Take a breather before responding.
4. Weigh your words. Attack the policy or the statement and NOT the person. Keep to the high road, though they probably won’t. In that case, do not get into an argument with them. Ignore them or delete them. Everyone has an opinion on social media and they are not here to listen to someone else’s.
5. Learn to distinguish fact from opinion, emotionally charged words, politically incorrect and hurtful words, and NEVER resort to name calling.
6. Remember that facts can easily become gossip, gossip becomes rumor, and rumor leads to slander and libel. Repeated enough times, lies morph into “facts,” so don’t fall for the trap of spreading gossip or rumors because it feeds into your narrative.
Remember, in the famous words of Pat Benatar (ending with levity here), “Love is a Battlefield;” so is social media. It can get really ugly out there if you chose to take a chance in its playground, so defend yourself with the truth.