It’s a strange time. Anyone else finding themselves spending more time than usual on social media, considering the coronavirus pandemic?
Social media is a great place to interact, but it can also be volatile, depending on how many “friends” you have and whether they’re the type to voice their opinions loudly -- or whether you follow people or groups with particularly loud comment sections.
Especially considering the stay-at-home orders and what people believe about everything involving COVID-19 -- which can be political -- needless to say, it might be a personal decision, regarding whether you even want to log into the social networking site right about now.
Facebook was once all about connecting with long-lost friends and school pals, or maybe even forging new friendships. Is it still?
Sometimes, you can see why some consider it divisive.
But like most things, Facebook is whatever you want to make it.
You don’t have to give up on social media in general, or even Facebook in particular.
The social media giants say they’re working hard behind the scenes to remove bot accounts and build a better platform.
In the meantime, here are some simple yet effective things you can do to make your own Facebook interactions less contentious and more civil.
Be a discerning news reader.
Users are what make Facebook the community that it is.
You can do your part to stop the spread of false information and divisive content by becoming a more discerning news reader.
It’s only natural to favor news stories that favor your point of view, but make sure those stories are from legitimate news organizations before you share, or even like, them.
There are lots of things you can do to verify the stories in your Facebook feed, from doing a quick online search to checking the validity of the site that first shared the story.
If you never heard of the website before, look for further verification before you share.
On our website, we have Trust Index, a new initiative to combat misinformation campaigns targeting local media.
Limit your time on social media.
It’s easy to spend hours on sites such as Facebook, only to wonder where all that time went.
The longer you spend, the easier it is to get sucked into the morass of political argument and divisiveness.
When you feel your blood pressure rising, take a step back, close the laptop or put down the smartphone and give yourself a break. Spending too much time on social media could have some negative effects. Go for a walk. Hang out with your family. Take a breather.
Recognize -- and resist! -- your triggers.
Everyone has triggers, words and phrases that drive them crazy.
If you want to engage more civilly on social media, start by recognizing the words, phrases and actions that trigger your emotions.
Once you know what those triggers are, you can work hard to resist the things that bother you online. “Trolls," as they’re called, love to get a rise out of people, so why give them what they want? Before you respond to that inflammatory post, take a step back, take a deep breath and step away from your device.
Always remember that civility starts with you.
Facebook and similar sites can be forces for social good, but they can have some not-so-great aspects, as well.
And while the tech giants of the world must do their part, individuals also have a role to play. If you want the internet to be a more civil place, you can start by acting more civilly in your own online interactions.