Fess up. We all have been guilty of having an unproductive conversation on social media. You post something slightly controversial. Your 5th cousin Merle in Georgia replies with some hogwash, off topic comment. You furiously type away on your worn-out Macbook keys, recalling every good point you thought of on your drive home from work, and you come up with a masterpiece retort destined to send cousin Merle virtually limping away in a defeat of logic and superior morality.
YOU WISH. Instead, every random person from high school or summer camp you forgot you were Facebook friends with begins to pick apart the fact that you used “may” and bladdy bladdy blah…Everything totally IRRELEVANT to the actual conversation. Am I right?
If so, this post is for you, and for cousin Merle or whoever in your virtual life is making you pull your hair out over your keyboard. Here’s how to communicate better on Facebook.
1. Consider how you are as a person in real conversation.
One thing that people always admit about conversation on the internet is that it’s not like real life. Why? Because nobody honestly says things like to another person’s face. You wish you were that bold, but you are a good person deep down. When you realize how offensive and mean someone perceives your comment, the conscience in you recoils in shame. It happens to us all. We want to have a productive conversation with optimistic results, not to send someone into a self-conscious and depressive downhill spiral. If you type something up and you realize you wouldn’t say that to someone’s face, just don’t press the post button. Seriously.
2. Check your tone.
No one can understand you tone, so don’t post something that requires people to hear your tone in order to understand what you really mean. You are not a New York Times Bestselling Author, and most of your audience is not in senior AP English class. We aren't going to pick up on the subtleties and nuances. The same goes with sarcasm. We all love a good sarcastic meme, but a touchy FB exchange is not the place to get clever. I have no replacement or suggestion for what to do otherwise. I just suggest you not do it.
3. Don’t be a jerk.
This goes along with the previous 2 points, but it has manifestations all of its own. Don’t try to be cutsie. Don’t try to outwit someone. Don’t be condescending. We need to respect other people and be decent human beings. If you have trouble with this, you need to analyze your intentions and make sure you aren’t just on the scene to bully people on the internet. If you want someone to seriously consider what you have to say and potentially change their mind about it, you have to be kind and respectful. It’s basic social skills.
4. Say EXACTLY what you mean.
If you implement the three suggestions above, you will find that the only thing left to express yourself on the internet is plain ole words. Therefore, it is of utmost importance that you state exactly what you mean. If you are tired of typing or don’t care that much, just delete it. It is not worth posting if you won’t put in the effort to add every. single. necessary. word. Use a dictionary to double-check what words mean. Use a thesaurus to find an adjective that has a nice, strong, romantic, or tough connotation. These things are fine. If there is any doubt, add another sentence to explain yourself. But PLEASE, say what you mean in all the words you need to. That way if someone misreads your post, the pitfall is on them and not on you. You should be able to say, “refer to what I literally just said,” because there is no better way to say. You spelled it out best the first time, because you are an awesome social media communicator.
Inevitably, someone will take what you said the wrong way or start an off-topic argument. If you follow my tips above, at least it won’t be your fault. Be sure to read other people’s posts with clear eyes, not taking offense to every little detail but the point as a whole. Maybe you could refer a friend who frequently misreads posts to this list of suggestions. And of course, if someone is being a major jerk, use my tips above and maybe you can effectively explain to him/her why she is wrong and how she could do better. Remember, the point of all this is to have real communication with someone. If we can converse with respect on social media, maybe we can actually do some world changing.