Stop Using Facebook as a Weapon

By: Rodney Olsen

Do you remember the three essential rules of keeping a mogwai from the eighties movie Gremlins?

  1. Do not expose the mogwai to bright lights or sunlight
  2. Do not let it get wet
  3. Never feed it after midnight

If you’ve seen the movie, you’ll know that young Billy didn’t quite stick to the rules and so all sorts of nasty things happened. More and more ‘gremlins’ spawned and set about causing havoc. Some people were killed, many others injured and it took a massive effort from Billy and his friends to bring order back to the town of Kingston Falls.

Do you remember the golden rule from the early days of the internet (which is just as relevant today)?

Don’t feed the trolls

Unfortunately the trolls have been eating very well and have continued to spawn and cause havoc. Where are Billy and his friends when you need them?

In Internet slang, a troll is a person who sows discord on the Internet by starting arguments or upsetting people, by posting inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community (such as a newsgroup, forum, chat room, or blog) with the intent of provoking readers into an emotional response or of otherwise disrupting normal, on-topic discussion, often for the troll’s amusement. – Wiki

Unfortunately a lot of people seem to be infected with a little bit of ‘troll’.

I see it on social media platforms like Facebook every day. People say things in the public space of the internet that they wouldn’t dare say to someone’s face.

Why is it that we mostly follow mum’s advice to ‘mind your manners’ when we’re with other people yet completely lose all sense of respect for others when we’re online? Why do we feel that we can take the role of judge, jury and executioner when we’re in front of a keyboard or phone screen? How do we think it’s alright to be so Jekyll and Hyde?

We’ve got to stop using Facebook as a weapon.

Before you post a reply to something you’ve seen online, stop and recognise that real people are involved. Real people will read what you write and may suffer real hurt.

It’s OK to disagree with someone. I’m not advocating that we all be saccharin sweet when we have a different point of view but we don’t need an AK-47 to kill a fly. Where’s the nuance in our conversations? Instead of acting like everyone involved in an online conversation is just a fictitious character, only existing in cyberspace, imagine you’re sitting opposite that person at a cafe and think of how you could help them see your point of view. Consider how you can thoughtfully add to a discussion rather than throwing in a grenade and running.

…. and speaking of cafes ….

Another way many people use Facebook and other social media as a weapon is to mercilessly berate businesses such as cafes. Sometimes it may be appropriate to call out bad service but too many times I see people telling the world about their bad experiences before taking matters up with the business involved. I’ve used email and private messaging to voice disappointment a number of times. I’ve had great results by respectfully and privately taking my gripe to someone who can do something about it.

On the other hand, how many of those who use social media to bludgeon businesses who don’t get it right every time actually drop a compliment or two on the public pages of businesses that exceed their expectations? When was the last time you publicly thanked a business online for being good at what they do?

There’s a better way.

I think we can do disagreement better. I think we can disagree without destroying relationship. We can honour others who hold a different point of view. The internet isn’t a competition to be won by vitriol.

We all get to be agents of change in turning the tide against the nastiness. Let’s all resolve to let grace and kindness flood our use of social media. Let’s decide to look out for opportunities to leave compliments on the Facebook pages of businesses that are doing a great job and to handle our complaints privately.

We’re all ‘grown ups’. Let’s start acting that way and stop using Facebook as a weapon.

Article supplied with thanks to Rodney Olsen.

About the Author: Rodney is a husband, father, cyclist and former radio broadcaster who works for Compassion Australia.