As a social media marketer, I know better than anyone how convoluted and crazed the conversations can get on Facebook and Twitter—especially in the touchy political climate of the last year. You may feel unsure of what to share, what to save and what to Google furiously to make certain it isn’t “fake news.” But if you’re going down the rabbit hole, here are a few things to remember before doing so.
The problem is your ego.
Here’s what makes you think you need to have an opinion on everything: ego. Ego makes us feel entitled and occasionally, smarter than others. Social media, because of its instant gratification nature, can drive this ego to go further than ever. I’ll just make this one comment and see how many replies and likes it gets. Hours pass and you’re in a heated debate with your friend’s cousin’s roommate about healthcare. Sound familiar?
But sometimes it backfires.
Even the most skilled debater may actually have the very visceral experience of realizing, “Oh man, I have no idea what I’m talking about here” or (if your ego keeps you from that thought), you may at least think, “There’s a lot I don’t know about this subject.” But you’ve gone too far now to back down. You’re forced to abandon the thread or keep pursuing until someone else abandons and you lie to yourself that you’ve somehow won this argument, even if damaging a relationship in the process. That can’t be good on the self-esteem.
Keep it in perspective.
Remember that putting up a status with your opinion does not make you an activist. Activism requires organization and action in real life. Recently, a poll showed that many Millennials felt that donating money via text counted as “volunteering.” It doesn’t. Don’t be that person.
Remember that actual, meaningful conversation with people you respect is the most important way to expand your thinking and learning about the narratives of the “other” (that is, people who are not like you). But I’d encourage you to have those conversations over dinner or drinks instead of over your lit iPhone in your otherwise dark bedroom.
Remember that you have a lot more to bring to the conversation that smug memes and condescension. You aren’t going to turn anyone your way by using the “you must be kidding” tactic.
Remember that news outlets, no matter how reputable, are making money on your click. And generating a headline that will instantly make you angry, sad, or even just inquisitive, is the name of the game. The more you click, the more readership they garner, the more ads they can sell. It really is that simple. If you find yourself following a lot of these opinion pages (especially those with the particularly incendiary names like “Why Democrats Suck” or “Rednecks for Trump”), simply hit that “unlike.” You’re not going to miss anything; I promise.
Remember that our current climate rewards those who are first and not those who are most correct. Even reputable journalists feel the pressure to break a story and some of the most reputable brands feel the pressure to stay relevant in current discourse. It forces many professionals to make comments or fashion stories without knowing all of the angles. In other words, be (or stay) skeptical.
Remember that turning off the feed when you start to feel depressed, humiliated or furious is probably the best course of action. Social media is a place to discuss things you care about, but it doesn’t have to be a tremendous emotional roller coaster or time suck. Think of all the beautiful things you could be doing instead—like reading more Best Kept Self articles.