The state of the world and - more specifically - the USA, has not been pretty in recent past. People are upset, emotions are running high, and biased news sources are being accepted as pure fact. The interactions I have seen and been a part of on social media have been sad and even appaling at times. People on both sides need to take a moment to reflect on the way we are treating those who disagree with us. So, for your convenience, I have created this simple guide to help in all of your online conversations.
Before anything, think. Is what I just heard/read/saw likely to be a widespread view? Is this post kind? Do I have a right to be saying this? Is this an opinion or is it a fact? Simply thinking about what you are going to say - and even re-reading it before clicking "post" - can eliminate many problems before they even come about.
No Name Calling
This is not middle school (unless you are actually a middle schooler reading this), so don't act like it. Calling someone uncultured doesn't automatically make you correct, and it certainly doesn't make you liked. You can easily make your point without calling names, and if you can't, your point isn't worth making.
Just because you saw one article about the inauguration doesn't mean you know everything about it. That meme you saw doesn't reflect the views of anyone but the person who posted it. Never assume you know what a person thinks because of their partisan affiliations, the protests they have participated in, or even their Facebook statuses. If you want to know what your friend, co-worker, or classmate thinks about a subject, ask. We all know what happens when you assume - you make an ass out of U and Me.
Check your sources
If you didn't know this already, literally anyone can write an article or blog (take me, for example), and they can say anything they want. They can tell you they have had experiences they have not had. And just because it is a news source does not mean it is unbiased. MSNBC is liberal and Fox is conservative. If you want to be sure you have your facts straight, try checking government websites or something more moderate like the Wall Street Journal. Sources, bias, and false information matter, and can be extremely hurtful.
Discuss, don't argue
Contrary to popular belief, expressing your opinion can be done without arguing. Arguing probably means you aren't listening to what the other person is saying. This will change no one's mind. Yelling, and using harsh language actually, makes others more defensive and set in their ways. If you are wanting to open someone's mind, try kindness and gentleness instead.
Don't be a jerk.
All of this can really be summed up in this one sentence. We all know how to treat others with respect, so why do those rules go out the window when we are sitting behind a screen? It's simple: treat others how you would like to be treated. As cliche as that is, it will get you much farther in life.
So, next time you start to respond to that person's Facebook post, think about these guidelines. Maybe things will turn out differently for you this time.