How To Behave on Social Media

How To Behave on Social Media
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The great thing about social media is that it gives us an opportunity to talk.

Which, oddly enough, also happens to be the trouble with social media.

It’s a big wide world out there with lots of things going on. Occasionally my social media newsfeeds blow up in a virtual fist fight that spreads like wildfire. It’s at that point it’s time to give some farmish advice about how to behave on social media.

If you wouldn’t say it to someone at a fried chicken dinner, don’t say it online:

I haven’t quite figured out why yet, but folks sometimes forget that the power of their words doesn’t diminish because they are typed instead of spoken to someone’s face. Social media has a sometimes magical (and sometimes downright stupid) way of making people braver than they would be if forced to say the same thing to a person in real life conversation.

I like to just imagine that I’m sitting at a big chicken dinner with y’all, and I think it could be helpful if everyone used this imagery. If you wouldn’t say it to someone who was sitting across from you at the table…maybe don’t type it out on social media. M’kay?

Let’s be honest—we really aren’t okay with people disagreeing with our point of view:

As a kid, I used to hear people say there are two things we don’t discuss at the table: religion and politics. There’s a reason for that—they are two topics that people have strong opinions on, and attach big parts of themselves to. Social media didn’t catch on to that rule though; there’s a current notion that it’s everyone’s right to discuss everything all the time, and social media provides the perfect platform to do so.

I’ve talked to the animals in the barn about this and I’ve decided that as much as we’d like to say that it’s fine and dandy for all of us to have differing opinions in the big land of (as the kids say now) ‘Merica and beyond, I have to call bluff on a bug chunk of the population. If folks really were okay with people having differing opinions, they’d let whatever the current topic of argument is die down. Mary thinks this way, Susan thinks this way, Joel thinks this way. Great. I’ve got to go weed the garden and clean the pig barn. Let’s move on.

Some people like fishing. Don’t take the bait:

I live in Minnesota, land of a bazillion lakes, and I know a thing or two about fishing. The fish that end up in trouble are the ones who take the bait. If we can get real for a second, some people on social media are baiting others into arguments. I know that post looks innocent (much like that Gulp bait I’m using to hook a fish), but it’s deadly. Bite the bait and you’ll get hooked into an argument. Sure, you’re not going to end up as dinner on someone’s plate (like my fish), but you will get angry, stressed out, say things you don’t mean, and possibly ruin friendships.

Seriously. Spit out the bait.

Farmish folk are humble. Stop assuming the post is for/about you:

I understand there are people out there who do vague posts (see above point about “baiting”) but sometimes you’re just reading it wrong. People have asked me, “What do you think this post is about? Do you think she’s talking about me? Do you think she’s insinuating ____? Do you think he means _____?”

He might. Or he might not. You could ask him (the person who wrote it) instead of me (the clueless one). Or you could realize that if it doesn’t specifically mention you, it’s actually not about you.

I know.

Mind blown.

Tone is important…and almost always gets screwed up.

I can imagine I hear my pigs telling me they need a belly scratch just as easily as I can imagine someone’s voice speaking the post they just put on social media. The problem is, depending on my mood, the temperature outside, what the ten posts before it said, and how much time I have, the inflection in the voice I hear will change—which could potentially alter the intended meaning of the post.

Bad news, y’all. Bad news.

Wouldn’t it be interesting if every post was read back to us in robot voice so we didn’t place sarcasm (or whatever else is heard) where it wasn’t intended?

Zuckerberg. Get on that.

Farmish folk are busy. There are seriously a million other things you could be doing:

I don’t watch the evening news. Haven’t for years. Many times when chaos scatters across my newsfeed, I have to google what’s even being talked about.

Social media can be productive and enjoyable, or it can be a destructive, emotionally-charged time suck. Can I get an amen? If you’re feeling it’s the latter, you need to change how you use it.

Listen: Opinions are like belly buttons: everyone has one, and the world gets pretty crazy if everyone is sharing theirs. When big things hit the news, it can almost feel as though there’s a sort of frenzy on social mediaif I don’t post how I feel about this, people will assume they know how I feel! And they might be wrong!—and posting leads to commenting and commenting leads to arguing and arguing leads to tantrums and….

We’re all adults, right?

Am I saying you shouldn’t share your opinion? Nope. I’m just saying be honest about what you’re getting involved in and why. People often share their opinion thinking they’re going to change someone else’s mind. How often does that happen?

Anyhow. If you can take a break from arguing on social media, send me your number. I’ve got chickens to butcher, and many hands makes light work.

Finally, stop flouncing.

Saying things like, “I am so done with social media! I’m leaving” is the equivalent of throwing a tantrum, picking up your toys, and stomping home. And while this kind of tantrum might be acceptable in the farmyard on a 105 degree day after you’ve been kicked by a cow, it looks pretty ridiculous on social media. If you’re done with social media, just be done. A book of a post about how you’re upset with social media, complete with a “so this is goodbye” is silly. And could possibly be filed under “baiting”.

And there you have it – my farmish guide to behaving on social media. I’m headed back out to the tractor…but are there any tips I missed?

A farmgirl's perspective on how to behave on social media. - A Farmish Kind of Life

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10 thoughts on “How To Behave on Social Media”

  • I love this! Such great tips…social media can really bring out some of our worst emotions and behaviors. I love the way you presented it here. I’m giggling. 🙂 Now if only I had a tractor or some chickens to get to….

  • Your timing on this post is exquisite! I saw it yesterday and found myself CHEERING — “YEEAH! What SHE said!” I am so tired of all the political & religious insanity (most of which is nothing but meaningless rants from folks just needing to vent) that I could not find ANYTHING worth sharing to my page for DAYS. THIS I shared. Thank you for writing this important post.

  • Beautifully put! Although, I would add that one should understand with whom you’re interacting.
    I admit I freely post my (in some opinions extreme) socially liberal views via my personal FB feed. That being said, I know which of my friends I can engage in a respectful, spirited debate on an issue. Surprisingly (and admittedly quite unusual in the liberal world!), I’m able to maintain strong friendships with people whose belief systems are nearly the polar opposite of mine, because we respect each other! Imagine the novelty!
    If I know you well enough to maintain a social media arms-length “friendship”, but NOT well enough that I can anticipate an equally respectful return comment from you, then I simply refrain from engaging that conversation at all – and happily stay in the “avoid religion and politics” world, sticking to those topics that brought our mutual interests to light in the first place. I might ask questions so that I can understand your point of view, but I won’t tell you you’re wrong, only why I disagree.
    Respect me, and I’ll respect you. Diversity is what makes this country great. I don’t want to live in a country where we all think the same way – no one can learn or expand their horizons if they aren’t at least exposed to those whose ideas about life differ from their own. It’s only lack of respect and acceptance of those differences that will tear us apart in the end.
    Thanks for a great post. Be well and enjoy your day! 🙂

    • Go YOU! I too have a politically charged social media group and we discuss things from differing points of view. That is not why I am in a farming group however, and so the group is where I feast my soul on exchanges of info and caring. The group is not the place for religious and political discussion. There are about a million blogs and groups out there for that purpose. I am glad that we share our view.

  • Very good. I’m not quite sure sometimes why people seem to ignore post after post after post, then all of the sudden will blow up on a post they SHOULD ignore. I’ve made my share of mistakes online & have learned most of this the hard way. I hope lots of people read this and take it to heart. What’s said in the barn, stays in the barn. Right?!

  • Thank you so much for your post. I’ve had to un-follow friends because of negative comments about politics or overloading their posts with offensive pictures, words or opinions. I look at my facebook as a nice ‘magazine’ to read everyday. We all need a source of ‘nice’ no one I know really needs another source of stress or drama. Thanks for putting it so nicely.

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