Only you can prevent internet drama
Today’s version of “can’t we all just get along?” is brought to you by internet drama. What is it about sitting down behind a keyboard that causes people to lose all sense of tact and empathy? If you’ve been a Facebook user for more than a week, you’ve seen this chain of events:
- A segment of the population (Group A) takes offense to something. It could be an event, a quote, a picture… anything, really. The importance of the ‘something’ could range from trivial to life-changing.
- Group A takes to Facebook to vent their frustration.
- Another segment of the population (Group B) thinks Group A’s opinion is wrong/silly/stupid and happily/angrily voices their amusement/disgust through counter posts and memes.
- Group A, offended by Group B’s trivialization of their plight, expresses outrage over an entire segment of the population being dismissed/mocked.
- Group B, offended by Group A’s outrage, takes to Facebook to vent their frustration.
- Group A thinks Group B’s opinion is wrong/silly/stupid and happily/angrily voices their amusement/disgust through counter posts and memes.
- Group B, offended by Group A’s trivialization of their plight, expresses outrage over an entire segment of the population being dismissed/mocked.
As a matter of fact, unless you have the restraint of Mother Teresa, you’ve probably found yourself a part of internet drama at some point; I know I have.
So, what can be done to break the vicious cycle of internet hypocrisy? Well, short of everyone agreeing to only post adorable cat pictures on Facebook, it’s unlikely that we’ll ever see an end to the toxicity that plagues social media. But we can attempt to control ourselves a bit behind the keyboard. When presented with an offensive or ignorant statement on social media, I try to remember to take my own advice:
When quoting and linking to your favorite media personalities, please keep in mind that they don’t know your friends and family. They don’t know their personal battles and how the story might affect them. But you should. And if you don’t, perhaps your time would be better spent listening instead of speaking.
To expand on that a bit, here are my self-imposed rules that I attempt to follow:
Don’t type angry
Take a deep breath and allow yourself to cool down a bit before posting your opinion piece. Nothing good will come from a knee-jerk reaction.
Consider your audience
Is your post/meme/comment likely to hurt one or more of your friends? Is that hurt and potentially damaged relationship worth a fleeting moment of smug satisfaction? Conversely, in the highly unlikely event that all of your Facebook friends are like-minded, what will you accomplish by shouting into the echo chamber?
I find that the most effective way to avoid internet drama is just to remove myself from it entirely. Depending on the situation, and the severity of the drama, this removal can take a few different forms:
- Stepping away from the computer/phone
Sometimes, just turning off my chosen device of distraction for a little while can be enough to return the proper flow of oxygen and common sense to my brain.
- Hiding offensive posts and people
Although it may take more restraint and swallowing of pride, clicking the hide button on an offensive post is actually less physically and emotionally demanding than typing a response.
In some cases, it can become necessary to permanently remove repeat offenders from your timeline. Spoiler alert: you can actually have a relationship with someone without seeing their every thought on social media. Recently, I unfriended someone on Facebook whose posts regularly made me feel bad about myself. It’s not that I don’t like the person. On the contrary, I suspect that he and I would probably get along really well in the real world. But several weeks after removing him from my Facebook feed, I am noticeably happier without his daily negativity.
Only you can prevent internet drama
The internet has given everyone a public platform. What we do with that platform is up to us. We can use it to add to the choppy sea of negativity, or we can use it to encourage and uplift one another. I propose we leave the mudslinging to the “professionals” who profit from our misery, and focus instead on improving our relationships and maintaining a shred of our humanity.