What Happened to Social Media Etiquette?

by | Feb 9, 2017 | Digital, Social, Web

No, You Can’t Use My Facebook Page as an Outlet for Your Rants

About a month ago I experienced what I believe to be one of the most unnecessary and downright uncalled-for displays of anger I have ever seen on Facebook. I couldn’t help but ask myself “What happened to social media etiquette?”

I had posted a funny video on my Facebook page. It was a recent “Saturday Night Live” skit with Alec Baldwin, so you can probably guess that it had political overtones. Political parody is a time-honored tradition, especially among irreverent comedic outlets such as “SNL,” which roasts whichever politicians are in office at any particular moment. Accordingly, I thought nothing of posting a political spoof, as I have done for years. But this time my post triggered an explosive exchange between two people who are total strangers and have very different political perspectives. At first I received a few notifications letting me know that someone commented on my post. When I finally got around to checking the comments, I could not believe the war that had erupted on my page.

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The situation went like this: One of my Facebook friends, let’s call him “Person A,” commented on the video in an entirely acceptable way, sharing his point of view like most people do on my page. There was no anger or negativity of any kind. However, another Facebook friend, “Person B,” apparently took offense, became riled up and proceeded to express his opinion in a way that made me embarrassed to know him. For the next 30 minutes, or what seemed like an eternity to me, both of them went back and forth defending their views. As badly as Person A was being attacked, he handled things in a calm and mature manner. Person B, on the other hand, became more and more infuriated and said crazy things like, “If you were tied to train tracks and needed help, I would not help you, you piece of (expletive),” as well as many other hateful statements.

As I sat back with growing dismay and watched this ridiculous tirade escalate – all because of one political spoof – I realized that the only responsible thing to do was to delete the post.

I get it. I know our country is deeply divided along political lines and people these days are extremely sensitive, if not raw, following an unprecedented negative presidential election. I also acknowledge that the election and the immediacy and less personal nature of social media have lowered our standards for acceptable conduct. But there is no excuse for being a jerk. As far as my posts are concerned, I can choose to express my displeasure with bad behavior by deleting the post and the discussion. Sadly, what I experienced happens all the time on Facebook and other social media platforms. It doesn’t matter what people post because there will always be trolls with something negative to say, making offensive and inflammatory remarks to provoke a reaction with no regard for the hurt they inflict.

Negativity is destructive. Social media is what we, its users, make of it. Our actions can amplify and create ripple effects, and we need to own how we use the power that social channels afford each of us to express our opinions. If, like me, you would like to see people share information and communicate with more respect and maturity, then join me in making it happen. After all, social media is the clay we mold.

I hope one day things will change. Until then, I will continue to unfollow people who are rude and disrespectful and will remove posts that incite that kind of behavior. I am committed to making social engagement on Facebook and other networking sites a more positive and meaningful experience. Please pass this along and like this post if you agree. Perhaps together we can make things better.

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