Unflattering photos. Hurtful comments on unflattering photos. An April Fool's joke gone awry. Public shaming and bullying.
I've seen a little too much of this recently from adults I interact with online. What is it about Facebook and other social platforms that emboldens people to abandon their good manners and let it fly?
Full disclosure: I am not immune to this phenomenon and I don't want to be judgemental but rather make some observations that may be helpful to all of us.
On April 1, a friend posted an ultrasound photo to announce her pregnancy. Later that day, she announced it was a joke. While I didn't think much of it, mutual friends apparently did. Certainly the "joke" was inconsiderate to friends who may have difficulty conceiving a baby. But I was most surprised by what happened next.
A mutual friend publically shamed this "jokester" by pointing out how distasteful it was and how she thinks less of this person now. Our 30 or 40 mutual friends all know who and what this was in reference to and many of them "liked" the public shaming post. To me, this is liking throwing stones in support. While I don't begrudge my friend for feeling upset, I think the way she dealt with her feelings was unfortunate. Two wrongs don't make a right.
In the grand scheme of online etiquette, this was pretty minor. There are too many unfortunate examples of cyberbullying among adults and children that have had fatal consequences. There are even more examples of carelessness that have resulted in lost friendships, workplace termination and lawsuits.
I have advised collegues on these basic guidelines of social media etiquette:
1. Angry? Walk away from the keyboard... Phone a friend or bend your partner's ear, but don't vent to your online friends and followers. Your dirty laundry is probably not their business, and the only real outcome is you will look angry and bitter.
2. Don't share anything you wouldn't want your granny or boss to see/hear/read. Most of us don't care to see your hot tub party pics or read your true feelings about your coworker. It's the ones who do want to see this information that you have to worry about.
3. Ask yourself, will this offend someone? This is where I struggle. I'm passionate about my values and I tend to share editorials and cartoons in hopes others might "see the light." Usually I only succeed in starting a heated debate without converting anyone. My approach now is to keep my posts about politics lighthearted, but it is difficult. Bottom line: it's unacceptable to post anything that is intolerant of religion, race, creed, etc. Keep in mind that controversial posts can bite you in the rear as your online persona (like it or not) is a reflection of your employer and other organizations you are affiliated with.
What are your thoughts? Do you have any advice for keeping online conversations civil?