As social media wastes increasing amounts of time and cloud memory, those that engage soon come to realize that interfacing with others is not the happy, genteel arena it was originally designed to be. The sites have devolved into spit pits of often rude, crude, or lewd sword fighting. Skirmishes are not for the meek with scoring judges. People with too much time on their hands aggressively set out to prove it.
When coming across something that rankles your ire, you have a choice: Ignore, engage, defend, or attack.
Ignore. By resisting the urge not to engage, you eliminate two problems: the person you are disagreeing with and the site sponsor’s algorithms that will keep you engaged since you engaged first. As hard as it is sometimes, the option with the least amount of hassle tied to it is this one. Chalk it off to minions being mullions and let it go.
Engage. Polite engagement will solicit two types of responses, support and disagreement. Many people who actively engage on social media live for, and seek, affirmations. This is the “herd mentality,” and the herd mentality works great as long as you have a herd already populating the fray. If you engage in hopes you attract a herd, you might not get it. You might get singled out and slaughtered.
As unfair as it seems, decorum is not rewarded in social media. How a person disagrees means nothing. The fact that he or she does is everything. So, if you must engage, be brief. If possible, the smart play is ambiguous brevity: “Interesting,” is always good because readers don’t know what to make of the answer.
Defend. When we jump to the defense of others, lookouts from the other side will enter the fray to counter-attack and defend their partner’s point-of-view. The smartest way to defend is (again) to be brief but vague. “That’s really insightful,” means both sides have something that makes them think you are on their side.
Attack. A good attack creates crickets of silence. A weak attack creates a counter-attack. The key to a good attack is to think it out carefully before committing to what you say and how you say it. Rash, reactionary, emotionally blurts generally don’t work. Clever ones do. I had a guy — a stranger I do not know — comment that I am “dumber than a piss ant.” I left that one sit for a bit and replied that “pissant” is one word, not two, so I think he might be the one coming up short.
The result? Crickets, of course. Check-and-make, insult bro.
Social media was intended to be a fun, interactive communication vehicle to connect people in positive ways. It in now a bit of a pig wallow, which is far less fun to roll around in than many other activities in life.
If you find yourself with a desire to respond to something, remember your options and pick the best one. If necessary, put on a helmet before launching your grenades. But never take it seriously. All these things ever are word jousts with pissants.
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