How to not be that a – hole on the internet

{Update: Being kind after a mass casualty event such as Beirut or Paris is obviously important, but I don’t want anyone to assume I am opposed to political discourse on social media.  This post was originally about being nice to people after a personal tragedy (a death, a cancer diagnosis, an accident, etc).    There is distinct difference between educated, factual, & productive political discussions and disrespectful personal vitriol spewed at someone who does not think the same way that someone else does. }

There is always one in the crowd – the one who decides to say something absolutely ridiculous on a Facebook post.  “They deserved it” is one of my favorite comments on a post about a tragic event.  Really, dude?  That’s super helpful to the people affected by whatever happened.  ***facepalm***

Over the past few years I have been able to see how social media communities can positively impact people all over the world. So much of what we hear about the online social media world is negative. Cyber bullying affects an incredible number of people, but is not the only thing that happens online. There are many, many good things that can happen in the virtual world as well, and it is up to all of us to create (and maintain) this positive environment when we interact with others.

As a responsible member of the virtual community,we have a choice. We can either lift each other up, or we can bring each other down. As we comment and interact, the power of our comment increases exponentially over time and space. It’s like a virus.

When we say something nice and helpful, it causes others to feel good, and increases the positivity. When we say something mean and accusatory, it causes others to do the same, causing a downward trend in feelings. Have you ever noticed when certain days are full of nothing but negativity online, or other days when it’s all rainbows and butterflies? (I exaggerate – but you know what I mean. Some days are way more positive than others!)

Saying something kind and helpful is never more important than when bad things happen to other people. This person is already down and overwhelmed. Why add to the pain?

In your response to their tragedy, practice intentional kindness as you type.

Think about what you are typing, and ask yourself these 5 things:

  • Is it kind?
  • Is it truthful?
  • Is it non judgmental?
  • Is it helpful?

Most importantly:

  • Would you say that thing to another person’s face?

Whether we want to be or not, we are responsible in some ways for other people’s feelings, and this is especially true on the internet. The anonymity of social media – especially Facebook, makes it very, very easy to say mean things, walk away, and not realize that there is a real, living person feeling that comment. Practice intentional kindness as you type- ask yourself the 5 questions, and help create a positive virtual community that holds other humans up when they need it most.

(btw – my TEDx talk on this subject should be up at some point in the next few weeks)

Be kind



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1 Comment

1 Comment on How to not be that a – hole on the internet

  1. Holly
    November 17, 2015 at 10:42 pm (5 years ago)

    Well said