A few months ago, I decided to ONLY be nice and positive on social media.
I made this decision for two reasons: One, I grew tired of spewing my own social media venom; and two, because I grew increasingly tired of observing others doing the same.
Online, all far too many people seem to know how to do is SCREAM all day long; bitching and venting about this and that. It never seems to end.
Personally, I no longer wanted to add to the noise.
In terms of my past online behavior, this largely manifested itself in two ways: One, I bitched, moaned, and complained when a brand or organization wronged me (at least in my opinion); and two, I injected my political opinion into the wider dialog around a specific political news event or policy discussion.
At the end of the day, this was getting me nowhere. I needed to stop. I was getting frustrated. And it was causing unnecessary stress and anxiety.
And the spiraling behavior could only be dealt with by feeding it more. And more. And more. The process would never stop.
In the end, I decided that I needed to model better behavior online, the kind of behavior I’d prefer to see online, at least from others in my various social networks. I realized that I cannot control the whole internet, but I can control what I do and whom I follow online.
So, in addition to my stopping my own venom, an important part of the work was also to distance myself from people doing specific things online, activities that would ultimately provoke me into responding, or at least commenting. This would usually be something not very nice. Or at least not optimistic or supportive.
I grew weary of people picking political fights just for the sake of picking fights (not because they had a legitimate or principled stand on any actual policy position). They just relished the fight and heated, angry debate.
I grew to dislike people who stirred up trouble and controversy, not because they believed strongly in the issue, but because they wanted to have 100 people comment on their post, and stir the pot within the comments. It was more about the action there.
I also tired of people who spent twenty-four hours a day complaining about brands. Endlessly. It really came to a head for me when United Airlines had its unfortunate experience of dragging the poor fellow off the plane. It felt to me that people relished the chance to pile on to a brand who had done wrong…not to necessarily voice deeply-held, principled opinion, but rather, they loved the schadenfreude. That made me sick. I unfollowed more people after that incident than any day since. And have been a shadow of my former self on Facebook since that incident.
And when one controversy ends, they wait and pile on the next brand that does wrong.
On the occasion that I did offer my thoughts and opinion on a matter of political opinion, people would jump at the chance to shit on my opinion. No, these people never commented or engaged with anything else I did online, but jumped at the chance to smack me upside the head when I offered something political. It was almost like they were lurking in the shadows waiting for me to say something…
Finally, and most frustratingly, I no longer wanted to observe people complaining about their lives (and doing nothing about it).
All these behaviors combined, grew very, very tiresome. And I was tired of feeding it all with my own venom and vitriol.
So now, when someone acts in this way on any of my networks, I unfriend and unfollow, or disconnect however appropriately. It’s not personal, really, but I just don’t have time for it.
So, here are the basic guidelines I’ve made for myself:
1. I will no longer complain about brands online. I will contact the brand directly if I have a complaint that warrants further action.
2. I will not discuss religion or politics. I will conduct face-to-face, offline debates with people who are interested in understanding my point of view on an issue; not with people who just want to shout louder than I can.
3. I will not engage on someone’s post to disagree and debate. If I feel strongly enough to discuss it with them, I will do so offline.
4. When there is a big controversy that has got everyone commenting and offering their opinion, I will simply unplug, get offline, and read a book.
So what will my behavior look like? Well, I’m going to post lovely photos of my hometown, the food we eat, the travel I do, our crazy dogs, share music I am listening too, and document my marathon training (which is taking more and more of my time).
And of course, I will continue share the results of the work from my media company: Our interviews, client work, our business series, and other fascinating material generated on our platform from our collaborators.
Some of you might find that boring. But I make no apologies, because that’s my life. You’ll engage with it, or you won’t. I won’t lose any sleep over it.
So, how’s it going so far?
Well, for several months, I haven’t been negative, haven’t complained publicly to and about any brands, have ignored and/or unfollowed anyone who has been politically nasty, and disconnected from most people who spent all day long complaining about people, brands, and their life.
I will admit, it wasn’t always easy. In today’s crazy political climate, it wasn’t easy to keep silent, especially in the face of some pretty repellent behavior, commentary, and media coverage.
But I did it. And now, it’s like I’ve gone through detox. I no longer miss it. It’s easier and easier to disengage and not pay attention to all the childish antics and behavior.
Here are my key lessons learned and (sometimes surprising) observations:
1. Assholes have stopped picking fights with me. This alone was worth the effort.
2. I’ve literally stopped sending dozens and dozens of tweets complaining about things. Nothing ever really comes from doing this anyway. And I don’t even really feel better after doing it either.
3. When I do make a comment on something now, I have to put a positive spin on things. This changes how I react to situations, and that’s a good thing. I am more optimistic and positive, rather than negative. Big, positive mindset shift!
4. I have become more proactive on these channels, rather than always reacting to people stirring up trouble. This affords more control to my personal messaging.
5. Similarly, this has made me a better journalist myself, as I am no longer reacting to poor journalism. And I am learning what NOT to do myself.
6. I had long felt required to follow provocative people just to be able to react to them. Now, I can simply unfollow them, get their vitriol and poison out of my life, and stop wasting my precious time.
7. I’ve learned how to discern real news, rather than trying to count on untrustworthy sources to get their opinion on the day’s events.
8. When I personally stopped pouring gas on the fire, a lot of the negative crap went away, at least in my world (which saved me a lot of anger, time, and stress).
9. Instead of taking so much of this crap personally, I can now laugh at most people online, and realize how foolish they are acting. It now amuses me, rather than infuriates me. My blood pressure has gone down significantly.
10. I’ve learned how relatively unimportant social media is. For as a result of my decision, I spend a lot less time on social media, and much to my surprise, I really don’t miss it.
11. At first, the urge to go negative was strong. But over a couple of months, that same urge has largely gone away, and now, I couldn’t be bothered. I’ve got more important things to do.
12. And WOW the time I have saved from not getting dragged into useless, pointless debates with people whom I will NEVER convince otherwise. That time can now be spent on positive activities, at least for myself.
So, those are my key findings from being nice on social media for a couple of months.
As I’ve said before, I won’t judge people for how they act online. The beauty of these digital channels is that you can utilize them however you see fit. So, far be it from me to judge people on platforms such as these.
Do as you will, and as many have continued to do, do your worst. But for me, I’m over it. I don’t have time for that anymore.