While Dragon and her companions are searching for my Foreman, I – Mistress Writer (aka Marge) – have been continuing to interact with my friends on social media. We discuss many topics, such as climate change, politics, religion, music, old memories, current events, race relations, civil unrest, examples of policing (both good and bad), the plight of the farmer, and the latest releases by our favorite authors. (side note – Jean Rabe’s latest in the Piper Blackwell series, The Dead of Jerusalem Ridge, will be coming out July 15. Happy dance!)
On social media, as in real life, many of my friends agree with me on most major issues. Some do not. Of those who disagree with my point of view, most are civil and polite. Some, however, are sadly ignorant of how rational adults discuss and debate issues. So, I thought I would offer this primer for conducting discussions/debates on social media. In no particular order of importance, social media participants should remember these key points:
1. If someone comments on your post and expresses an opinion different from yours, they are not attacking you, your ideas, your opinions, your self-worth, or even your post. They are expressing a different point of view. If you cannot accept people having a different opinion, stay off social media.
2. There is a difference between fact and opinion. Your “observations” are still just opinion. If you want your opinions accepted as fact, back them up with solid data.
3. If someone backs up their opinion with facts, they are not getting all worked up, and they are not being aggressive, over the top, or irrational. They are providing facts to show you why they have an opinion that differs from yours.
4. If you do not want to engage someone in a discussion over your difference of opinion, just do not respond to their comments on your post. Or you can respond with a mature “We will just have to agree to disagree” rather than continue to put down their opinion and tell them they do not understand your post. They most likely understand you post perfectly. You made an observation, and they disagreed with your conclusion. Get over it.
5. If you respond to someone’s comment and they accept that as an indication you would like to engage in a discussion, do not get upset with them and delete your entire post if they continue to disagree with you. That is the internet equivalent of the spoiled kid who takes his ball and goes home if he is not winning.
6. Do not use profanity. It does not give your opinion any more validity. It also does not make you seem “adult” or mature, it makes you look uneducated. As my sainted mother used to say, if you cannot express yourself without using profanity, then you need a better vocabulary. If you do use profanity and someone objects, do not tell them to grow up. They are the one showing maturity, proper behavior, and decorum.
7. If you do not want to continue discussing an issue, do not send a personal message to the other person berating them. Just stop responding to their comments online.
8. Do not try to persuade people you are right by telling them how smart you are. Telling people in your posts or in your comments that you are an intelligent person and therefore know more, or know better, than they do makes you look like a little kid stomping their foot and crying “But I’m smart! I’m smart! Listen to me! I’m smart!” Also, if you really are intelligent, it will come across in your conversation, without you having to point it out to others. Finally, if you really are intelligent, perhaps you should entertain the idea that other people are intelligent, too.
9. Having an opinion that is different from the one a friend or relative has is not wrong, and it is no reason to get defensive or to threaten that person that you will lose respect for them if they continue to disagree with you. Saying that tells them you already have no respect for them. And guess what? It probably does not bother them one little bit. They probably have enough confidence in themselves and their opinion, and enough positive self-image, not to need your approval or that of anyone else.
10. If more than one person leaves comments on your post telling you that you are being very rude or condescending, you are likely the one with a problem, not them.
11. If you find yourself frequently getting all upset over people disagreeing with you on social media, and you repeatedly insist you are right, and you berate others for holding a different opinion, you are likely the one with a problem.
12. Telling someone that they do not understand the issue because the media only tells us a small percentage of what is going on, and the media gets it wrong anyway, makes people wonder where you get your information, and what makes your source better than anyone else’s source.
13. Telling someone you understand more than they do because you know someone who is an expert in the field is not valid. It is called namedropping. Maybe the person you disagree with knows people who are experts in the field, too, and maybe their experts know more than your experts.
14. Aggressively trying to get another person to not express their opinion, trying to silence them, trying to intimidate them, belittle them, or tell them that people are laughing at them because of their comments – that behavior indicates you are a bully.
15. If you notice that no one is commenting on your posts anymore, please do not think it is because people have finally realized you are brilliant. What they have realized is you are not worth their time, as you have no idea how to share opinions with people in a mature and rational way. All you know is how to ram your opinion down other people’s throats.
I am sure I have overlooked many items regarding discussions on social media that should be covered in this primer. If anyone wants to add to it, please feel free to comment. If I have said something you disagree with, please feel free to comment. I promise if you are civil and polite (and refrain from profanity) I will not delete your comment (or my entire blog post).
I hope to see all my readers again on Sunday, when the regularly scheduled storyline will continue. I’ll be sure to leave the porch light on for you.