Most of us have seen the flash fires caused by a poor comment on a social media site. I have caused more than my fair share! While I don't claim to be a social media guru or ninja, I can advise you of a few steps to avoid causing most of these flare ups.
Sites like Facebook and Twitter seem to be especially prone to these little "faux pas" in social media etiquette. All of the "friending" and "following" lull us into a false sense of being on the same page with those observing our comments. Common sense will tell you that we cannot all agree on everything. There are 3 "don'ts" when it comes to smooth social sailing. Avoid...
- Drunk posting
Politics and religion are subjects that our grandparents avoided like the plague. Today, we trend to treat these topics like sports teams; cheering our favorites and condemning those who do not agree with us. All have their beliefs in these areas, including those who don't believe in either. Unless you are sure you are of like mind with your "friends," these are good topics to leave alone.
Have you ever noticed that most social media flare ups occur in the evening or late at night? This phenomena can often be attributed to something I like to call "drunk posting." A couple of glasses of wine or a case of beer not only frees up inhibitions, it also endows the false sense of being correct more often than not. Combine drinking with politics or religion, and you are asking for trouble. Back away from the keyboard. Friends don't let friends post drunk.
There are those who post comments just looking for a confrontation. These folks are commonly referred to as trolls. Don't feed the trolls! These comments start with something like, "If God really existed..." or, "It's George Bush's fault..." It is obvious that they expect a response. I see these folks as a gas can looking for a match. While there will be some that cheer these troll antics, it is best to ignore argumentative trolls.
There is one method of social media surfing that sounds bad, but is your best defense against social fire fights. In the days of old when knights were bold, lurking was a bad thing. Today, lurking is a tool wielded by the savviest in social circles. Although the definition has changed little - to observe, unseen; it is not considered creepy on the internet. Look at it this way - If you were to answer a question on a test, it would be wise to peruse the textbook first. I find myself lurking much more on professional sites like LinkedIn than Facebook or Twitter. Those posting on LinkedIn are often industry professionals and are quick to judge an uninformed comment. Don't be that guy!
If you still feel that lurking has a stigma that you do not wish to attach to yourself, consider the following... Everything on the internet was written by somebody. Do you comment on every page you visit? Of course not. You visit most sites to be entertained or gather information. It is the same with social media sites. A little lurking can improve your comments a great deal. Before asking a question, look over other comments. Has this issue been addressed before? Is this even the right place to ask this question? It has been my experience that I often find answers to my questions by lurking. In fact, after I am more informed on a subject, other questions arise that are more likely to have professionals saying, "good question."
Since things can get confusing in the modern world, let's review. Trolls were once and are still ugly and annoying. Lurkers, once creepy, are educated and appreciated. Vampires still kill people, but are now considered cool... sorry, that is a subject for a later post.