Civility in Social Media Communications

We have all experience some level of incivility while hanging out on social media. Seems to be increasing and don’t assume it is just interactions between teens. Maybe we have even made a few mistakes ourselves in communicating which have hurt friends, created silent barriers, or diminished how we are perceived to others.

According to preliminary results from Microsoft’s study “Civility, Safety and Interactions Online – 2018,” 63 percent of online risks were sourced from strangers and people whom respondents knew only online – largely unchanged from the previous year. The results also show that 28 percent of online risks came from family and friends.

The reasons for each of these results might be somewhat different. Social media is an excellent resource for people to show inappropriate language, request information they might not normally ask a stranger or share openly feelings about the “friend’s” political, religious or other beliefs and experiences. There is a sense of freedom, or maybe even entitlement. We have certainly seen the result of incivility in trying to influence the opinions of others.

The results indicating that online incivility with family and friends is obviously the “can’t say it to their face” syndrome or a need for others to share their pain. You know, let’s just rally the family against the relative who has made a bad decision. Often, we become even more insensitive when we think we are being helpful.

Communicating in social media brings out the best or the worst behaviors. It gives us a forum for dialogue about important issues or educate us on important how-tos, where to find… and much more. It also allows us to not only put the laundry out on the street, but gravel in it, and then when we don’t get the feedback we want, to be hurt or angry.

Social media can be a place for lies, propaganda, and even rationality for the actions of some very bad actors. Scams, false identities, a world of assumptions easily take center-stage.

So, if you want to be an advocate of social media or need to use if for any number of communication needs, how can you increase the expectation of civility? This is the opportunity we each have in our online interactions.

Here are a few of the areas I aspire to in my own social media efforts:

  • Ignore and delete requests on social media to be my friend when I don’t see that they know several people I know. I don’t need to be flattered into thinking that these good-looking men with very little on their profiles is interested in a relationship. In this case I don’t need to respond.
  • Accept the people who don’t follow my rules. Social media is a free place to share your political views, religion and try to sell your products or services. I will sometimes kindly tell you how I feel and sometimes I will just ignore you. My perceptions of you are being developed, and if you are being pushy, condescending, or erroneous, well, the perceptions may not be so favorable, but no harm done, right?
  • Try not to respond in anger or disrespect. Count to ten. They may not be asking me for my opinion. I have probably not walked in their shoes, or if I have, it was a long time ago, so life may not have been in the “good ole days” and times have changed.
  • If I just must make a comment, I hope to make it kindly and in an only-my-opinion way. When you say to, “To be honest…” you probably have already lost their attention.

Overall, we are what we think. If I can share more positive thoughts than negative, that is not only civil, it is an opportunity to impact how our society thinks. If I can express myself without cussing and focus on other ways to set the tone of my words and feelings, well, I am hopefully helping others to get over their problems, not support staying in the murky water. If I consider myself a kind, intelligent, helpful person, then I will pay attention to my typos, expressions, and what I share. Focusing on our own beliefs and values will naturally make us more civil in our communications.

On World Kindness Day and in gearing up for Safer Internet Day, On World Kindness Day and in gearing up for Safer Internet Day, we’re again encouraging global internet users to pledge to a Digital Civility Challenge based on these principles:

  1. Live the Golden Rule by acting with empathy, compassion and kindness in every interaction, and treating everyone you connect with online with dignity and respect.
  2. Respect differences, honor diverse perspectives and when disagreements surface, engage thoughtfully, and avoid name-calling and personal attacks.
  3. Pause before replying to things you disagree with, and don’t post or send anything that could hurt someone, damage reputations or threaten someone’s safety.
  4. Stand up for yourself and others by supporting those who are targets of online abuse or cruelty, reporting threatening activity and preserving evidence of inappropriate or unsafe behavior.

If you would like to learn more about this challenge, check out this link: https://blogs.microsoft.com/on-the-issues/2018/11/13/peoples-online-social-circles-are-becoming-riskier-new-microsoft-research-shows/

If you would like to participate in a training session in 2019 on Communicating Civility in Social Media which will go deep into how to make the best possible perceptions and impact how people view civility, email me to be on my list to contact!