Have you ever made the mistake of reading the comments beneath a political news article on social media?
The comments of others are enough to make you lose faith in humanity—or at least make you pull your hair out.
Then there’s public comments to your posts and others. Without being able to hear your friends’ voices, tone is lost. Meaning can be missed. Tempers can flair.
Since you can’t change others’ behavior, what can you do to use your keyboard for the good of humanity?
Ever received one of those passive-aggressive compliments? You know, the type of “encouragement” laced with subtle insult?
No one likes them.
One way to avoid sounding insincere or insulting is to ground your encouragement in authenticity.
Before typing or sharing your encouragement, pause and think:
What do they need to hear?
What’s something about them I genuinely appreciate?
How do they make a difference?
Pinpoint something lovely about them. Then, pivot to encouragement.
“Empathy fuels connection.” - Dr. Brené Brown
The great thing about this approach is it takes the pressure off of performance. You don’t need to worry about producing the most well-crafted compliment or fabricated response.
By being genuine and empathizing, your encouragement will be natural. Plus, it lessens the likelihood your friend will take a remark the wrong way.
Engage in Dialogue, not CombatWill your words on social media change hearts and minds?
Maybe, but not likely.
The Pew Research Center found only 23% of Americans changed their perspectives after reading social content from others. This means most Americans do not budge on their positions—at least not right away.
Think about the last time you had a verbal disagreement with a friend or loved one. Did they yell at you or talk you through it? What would you respond better to?
As a kid you probably hated being yelled at by parents and teachers. Even if they were right, you probably shut down. Research has shown that calm and caring interactions with caregivers promote stronger connections.
This applies to our adult interactions as well.
Are you friends with people who yell at you on social media? Probably not. Do you comment and reciprocate on people’s posts who are inflammatory, violent, or angry? Doubtful.
So, the best way to model caring interaction is through dialogue.
Yelling erects a power structure over others, while dialogue helps deescalate. It also engages critical thinking. Most importantly, dialogue recognizes the person you’re speaking to as an equal.
Advocate for Others
If you’re scrolling with compassion, you will notice others’ needs. You may feel fatigued and overwhelmed by the need out there. So, how can you make a difference with your keyboard?
First, it’s okay to step in. We need each other.
The Center for Community Health and Development from the University of Kansas emphasizes some key qualities of social media advocacy. They note it’s not about making yourself sound right but helping “people connect with your goal.”
So, in your advocacy and defense of others, what can you do to “empower others” over time? How can you get them on your side and to see your perspective?
Also, with so much need around you, you will become fatigued. Here’s what one specialist recommends:
Instead of feeling daunted by so many crises in the world, choose one or two priorities where you want to have an impact...You can use your personal efforts, voice, or money to contribute to a meaningful goal. - Arianna Gallagher, Associate Director of Ohio State University’s Stress, Trauma and Resilience Program
Advocate for those around you, dialogue with others, and lead by compassion.
Take a Break from the Keyboard
One last suggestion: Break away from social media and the news at least once a day. With the endless news cycle, you will become exhausted following the world. One journalist calls this “crisis fatigue.” The same applies to an always-on social media life: Between the comparison trap, presenting a “perfect” reality, and getting sucked into feeds, social media is draining.
So, remember to step away from your keyboard for a day (or week). Whatever it takes to recharge. Remember…
An empty cup needs refilling.
A long day of work needs rest.
A busy mind needs—you guessed it: Netflix.
Take some time for yourself and with your loved ones. Recharge. Sleep well.
We need you at your best, so you can use that keyboard for the good of others.