There is a right way and a wrong way to share your opinion online

There’s been a lot of talk in recent years about how schools should teach practical skills, such as how to change a tire, do an interview, how to build your credit score, things like that.

Personally, I think social media etiquette, including information on the consequences of social media, how to protect your information and how to show respect for others, as well as a healthy dose of libel law instruction, should be one of those classes.

Social media was born into a world where the Internet, wifi and smart phones and other handheld devices have made it easier that ever before for people to access information and connect with others, and yes, share their opinion.

And we’re hooked.

Smart phone addiction is a real thing, with people needing to constantly check their newsfeeds and notifications and see how many likes they got on what post, and while they are on there browsing, they’ll come across any number of inflammatory topics that get their blood pressure going and their fingers itching to dish out some so-called “social justice.”

With that addiction to devices and social media seems to have come an addiction for conflict.

A lot of people don’t seem to understand that just because they are able to type whatever they want, doesn’t mean they should. There is a right way to share your opinion, and a wrong way.

Evidence of the damage unscrupulous online commenting can cause can be seen everywhere.

Businesses have closed because of attacks on Pinterest reviews, teens have committed suicide because of cyber bullying and the sharing of private photos, and if you think there are no consequences to smearing someone online, think again. Cases where people have been prosecuted are rare, but they do happen.

A consequence people may not think of, but is becoming more and more prevalent is how social media comments may affect their employment prospects. Many employers now check a prospective employee’s online profiles before hiring.

Would any of your online posts and comments disqualify you?

But perhaps a slower and even more insidious affect is the erosion of civility and kindness we show our fellow human beings.

The amount of viciousness online astounds me. Things a person would never say to your face, they feel no compunction over posting online for the world to see.

There’s even terms now, coined because of this phenomenon. You’ve all heard them: trolling, social justice keyboard warriors, etcetera.

It’s even become a form of entertainment for some people, following contentious online threads and posting GIFs of people eating popcorn like they’re watching a movie.

And I’m not talking about teenagers, I’m talking full grown adults.

A troll may feel they are impressing someone with their biting wit, but anyone with any real wit, or at least integrity, is not impressed.

Beaking off online never changed anybody’s mind for who they wanted to vote for, their deep-held beliefs or their points of view based on their unique life experiences.

Insulting someone’s age, ethnicity, background or intelligence certainly isn’t going to sway someone’s opinion, so ask yourself, what are you arguing for?

Is your goal to express your views so you can be understood and bridge the gap between you and another person, or do you simply want to be “seen?”

Here are some good practices to follow when considering posting a comment online:

1) Is my goal to have meaningful communication and to foster understanding, or am I just angry? If the latter, see point two.

2) Is there a way that I can state my opinion in a civil and kind manner? If the answer is no, then don’t post. If yes, see point three.

3) Am I open to listening to another’s view point or do I simply want to be right? If the latter, then don’t post.

Ponoka News has a vibrant online community and we appreciate everyone who reads the paper and participates in our social media forums. Although this column is about the Internet in general, this is a friendly reminder about our commenting policies.

On the Ponoka News’ Facebook commenting frequently asked questions page, which can be found at ponokanews.com/faq, it states: “With the freedom to comment comes the responsibility to treat other forum participants with respect – and to take responsibility for your own words.”

Hostile comments take away from the enjoyment of readers and hurts forum participation. Please be aware that any comment that is deemed by Black Press to be hateful, racist or otherwise offensive may be removed without warning.

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