Editor’s Note: How to use social media

I had originally planned this for earlier this year. But things keep popping up that I felt a need to write about. But this has popped again, like it ALWAYS does. So, I figured this is needed. If anything sounds familiar, take it to heart. You’re might be doing it. So, Daddy Tom’s rules for social media.

Do not vaguebook negatively.

Seriously. Don’t. It never ends well. If you want to build up to good news, go for it. That can be fun. But if you’re going to complain or make accusations without naming names, you will create more problems than resolve. It’s passive-aggressive and it pisses people off, including people you didn’t plan to piss off. People will make assumptions, possibly think you’re talking about them and get mad that you didn’t just talk to them before throwing it on the internet. If you get a cold shoulder at the bar, that may be why. “They can just ask me!” Yeah, because people are always going to approach someone they think is hostile. That’s something I love to do. Plus, it just looks cowardly.

No. If you need to vent, vent to a friend. Privately. Do a chat or, and this is a wild idea, call them. That’s part of the reason we have them. I know people can be asses and piss us off. We’re all human, it happens. But don’t let it be destructive.

Don’t start a fight.

Because arguments on social media don’t actually resolve anything. People just dig in their heels and react. They won’t stop to think, they’ll just lash out. And you won’t actually change minds. At best, they’ll think you’re an idiot. At worst, a bully and a threat.

Don’t join a fight.

Just because you see something, you don’t have to always react. I know, it’s hard. I have that temptation myself. As a webcomic once said “Someone is WRONG on the internet!” You want to correct that. And I’m not saying never. But before you jump in, stop and think. Is it worth the anger and frustration? Is this someone who will listen? Is it someone you have to work with? But just because there’s an argument, you don’t have to invite yourself to it.

Another part of this is don’t add fuel. You’ll alienate people you didn’t plan to and will do absolutely nothing to resolve the conflict.

Don’t assume how far it goes.

Because you really don’t know. Like, ever. And you don’t know what will be seen and what won’t be seen. You may have been passionately stating your beliefs for a long time, but not everyone will see it. What they will see is when you finally lose your temper and lash out. And that’s what they will assume about you. Maybe 10% of your friends and/or followers will see what you post on Facebook. And only those who you interact with the most. You’re talking to an echo chamber. Until it goes viral and people feel blindsided. That will not win you support. Step out of the echo chamber and do more than just ranting on social media. Engage, write, organize. But don’t assume that everyone will see everything you post.

Stop before you post.

Hold off. Breathe. Go watch TV. Read a book. Vent to your husband, wife, pup, whatever. Do NOT let out with the first thing that comes to your mind. It’s never the best thing. A good rule of thumb is if you wouldn’t say something to a person’s face, then don’t put it on social media.

Don’t assume people will know or get context.

Text and tweets do not carry tone. People may not know you well enough to know when you’re joking or misread what you’re trying to say. They also won’t know where it’s coming from or what inspired it. They also won’t necessarily ask. They will assume. Just accept that now. I’ve seen more than once where people have gone off, gotten a lot of support then lose support once more people get the context and find out the background. A few friendships have been damaged or destroyed because of that.

Don’t assume. Period.

You don’t know what’s in people’s heads or what’s going on. You may not know them as well as you think. You could say something you think is being supportive only to find out you tripped over a landmine. Or that the person is attacking someone you support. It doesn’t end well. Hold off. Find out more. See if there’s something positive you can do. Otherwise, don’t do shit.

Don’t air dirty laundry.

If there is something internal with a group or friendship, don’t throw it out into the public. Even if you don’t think you’re asking people to pick sides, you are. They may not pick your side. They may not pick any side. They may say “Okay, I’m just gonna stay from that mess.” They’ll avoid both of you and the group. They may decide you’re not worth the trouble. And then when you really need support or help, it’s not there.

Actually talk to the people you’re having disagreements with privately. There will be less hurt feeling and less baggage down the road. It will make everything much easier.

Don’t lie.

If you absolutely must get into a battle, don’t say one thing in one place then something different elsewhere. Because people WILL call you on it. They will get screenshots. Don’t say something that will bite you on the ass. Because it will not let you use a safeword. And people will hold grudges.

Another part of this is don’t take other people’s comments out of context. Again, people will find out and see you picked and chose what was said just to prove your point. That will not help your credibility.

Know when to take it offline.

Social media and text are a horrible place to have a debate. Like I’ve said already, people will not get tone, body language or any other non-verbal communication. At a certain point, all you’ll be doing is burning bridges you may need some day. And as easy and convenient as social media can be, it doesn’t and will never completely replace actual face-to-face conversations. So many social media wars could have been stopped if people had just talked before blasting away.

Read and pay attention.

Make sure you really read something completely before you react. I’ve been guilty of this myself. I read something that pisses me off then I go off. Ranting and raving. Then someone points out “Oh, you didn’t read this line? You know, the one right after the one that pissed you off?” At which point there is lost face and reputation. People will be less likely to listen to you because, well, you just proved you don’t actually pay attention. So why should they listen?

Own your mistakes.

It’s happened to all of us. You drop a big bomb, people rally or get up in arms. Chaos! Battles! Mass hysteria! Dogs and cats, living together! And then you realize you made a mistake and painted yourself into a corner. Own it. Apologize as publicly as you accused and admit you made a mistake. It won’t make everything better and you may still lose friends, but you’ll be able to keep at least some honor.

Admit when you’re wrong. It sucks to do. You’ll hate it. And you’ll be an adult. That’s the drawback to the adulting thing. You have to prove it and not throw tantrums or blame.

I’m not saying I’ve followed all these rules myself. I haven’t. I’m human. But I do try to. Social media is a fun and wonderful thing. But it’s like fire. It’s a great tool but it can burn you if you’re not careful. The biggest thing is simply use common sense. If it’s not something you can say to a person directly, then it doesn’t need to be said. There are times you need to, I know that. But have the wisdom to know when those times are. Not every battle needs to be fought every time. If you’re fighting every time you log into Facebook, you won’t be happy. Let yourself just enjoy things sometimes.

Daddy Tom is the publisher and founder of Great Lakes Den. He lives in Chicago with his husband Jeff and his pup. He can be contacted at editor@greatlakesden.net.