Social Media Etiquette During Uncertain Times

I am a member of several Facebook groups, some of which I actively participate in and some of which I occasionally glance at. I am a firm believer that one should only post to social media what they would be comfortable with the world seeing because even with privacy settings, anything on the web is accessible. I am even more careful when I post to a group page where I am part of a larger group of mostly strangers. Recently, I have seen trends in some Facebook groups that are concerning to me. People are in general more anxious and stressed because of the global pandemic and resulting stay at home orders. This is definitely a time of uncertainty and trepidation. Some are turning to social media as a way to gather support and empathy. Unfortunately, some do not seem to realize how their need to “vent” or promote a believe such as a political position can affect others who are also feeling more anxious and stressed.

I believe in following two general guidelines when posting to social media groups or pages. First, keep conversations about your fears, frustrations, and anxiety with a friend or loved one. Do not spread rumors or rant about how an individual or institution is not handling a situation the way you would like them to handle it. We are in unchartered territory. Individuals and organizations are in general doing the best they can. My daughter will be attending Colorado State University in the fall. Their parents and families page has this specific rule, “It’s okay to post opinion, complaint, or disagreement in a constructive manner.” Negative, untrue, or uninformed posts can trigger anxiety in others and tends to not make you feel better in the end.

Second, stick with the group theme / topic. Every group or page has a brief description of what they are about. None of the social media groups I belong to are political in nature. I prefer to avoid politics with strangers. Unfortunately, some of the groups I am in occasionally become political. Let’s be real, how many of us have changed our political views because of a social media post they saw? Keep politics out of groups or pages unless the page is political in nature. I can appreciate sharing factual information from time to time, but pure political posts only polarize individuals and lead to unnecessary friction. Even if someone is posting about a candidate or official I support, such posts do not belong in the groups and pages I am a part of. Even before the pandemic, political posts tended to divide us. Now more than ever, we need to take steps to unite us.

When these two guidelines are broken, other people tend to react and let their displeasure known. They tend to point out why a complaint is wrong or how political posts do not belong in that group or on that page. The author of the original post then presents as hurt and angry, not understanding why others reacted so strongly. People tend to defend individuals or values they believe in when they feel those individuals or values are attacked. This only leads to more friction and division. Please ask yourself the following questions before posting to a social media page or group you are a part of: Will my post help me to feel better and more connected? Is my issue better shared with people who know me or specifically with an individual or institution instead of strangers? Will my post unite us? Will I feel better when all is said and done? Remember now more than ever to be kind to one another and help take care of each other. Our social media posts can go a long way towards showing kindness and caring.