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Please Don’t Tell Me What to Do

OR: HEY, F*CKER! STOP TELLING PEOPLE WHAT TO DO ON SOCIAL MEDIA!

Stop sending donations to evacuees of Hurricane Harvey and start sending money. You’re only helping create piles of useless stuff.”

“Stop saying that you’re praying for [insert city/state/country in crisis]. Prayers don’t help.”

“You need to start calling your state reps about [insert pressing issue] RIGHT NOW.”

“If you don’t punch a Nazi, YOU are complicit.”

“ If you’re not angry right now, YOU are part of the problem.”

“F*ck you (in response to anything anyone has said).”

Maybe you’ve seen Facebook statuses and tweets like this over the past 12 months. And maybe, like me, they cause your knee to jerk and your muzzle to snarl.

Uh, why the hell does this person feel they can tell me what to do?

You may even agree with what the status is saying, but the commanding language triggers obstinance. Being told what to do, especially in an aggressive tone, is not only off-putting, but it makes you want react in the opposite manner the commander is asking for.

When it comes to children, there are differing opinions on how to get your child to do what you want them to do. You can either tell or ask. Some camps feel that telling guides your child in the right direction, while others feel that asking respects your child’s decision-making process.

But that’s children, y’all — not your Facebook friends.

Unless you’re FB friends with bunch of kindergartners, most of your social network is over the age of 18 and can make decisions for themselves. And the last thing your friends want to see on their feeds are orders from friends who act as authority figures on subject matters they’re not authorities on.

By telling your friends what to do, you’re sending the message that you think they’re not smart enough to make the best decision. And maybe your friends do have the emotional maturity of 5-year-olds, but you know what? You’re not going to get them to come to your side with commands — especially if those commands are laced with swear words and sarcasm.

I’m not an expert on matters pertaining to psychology, but I am a person who recoils when she reads commands on social media. With that being said, may I suggest you to try using this language below to help you get your point across?

  1. Instead of starting a sentence with you need to/you must/stop/start, try starting with less aggressive, encouraging language.
    For example, let’s try changing “Stop sending donations to evacuees of Hurricane Harvey and start sending money. You’re only helping create piles of useless stuff!” to “It’s awesome that you want to help Hurricane Harvey evacuees. There seems to be a higher need for money over materials right now since materials are just piling up. Maybe consider donating cash instead at [insert link to favorite charity].”
  2. Before you post, ask yourself this: Would I speak to someone in real life this way? I know that sounds like a very grandmotherly thing to say, but grandmas have been around the block. They know their stuff. Remember, you are probably social media friends with former or future employers and using commanding language could make them view you as disrespectful or aggro.
  3. Maybe try not using swear words when talking to your social media audience? I like swear words as much as the next asshole, but when I read a tweet or Facebook message that starts with “F*ck you,” “Hey, moron,” or “Suck a bag of d*cks!” I’m most definitely tuning out and not taking you seriously. For example, a right-leaning friend posted a civil comment on my FB page. Many people, including myself, didn’t agree with what he had to say, but he’s also the sort of guy you can talk with, who will admit to seeing your point of view too. One friend engaged with this right-leaning friend by starting his sentence with “Hey, Steve. FUCK YOU!” Beginning your sentence with “Fuck you” will not get you anywhere. Whether it’s deserved or not, that immediate dismissal of the person will only make them defensive.
  4. I know the temptation to write a commanding status or tweet is really appealing since messages that start with “Hey, asshole! Let me tell you what you’re doing wrong/what you need to do…” appear to get the most likes, but I promise you: There are just as many people thinking, “Wow, that person is really being a turd right now.”
  5. Think about how you liked to be spoken to. Do you react well when someone says to you “Moron! Stop doing XYZ”? If the answer is no, then your friends most likely don’t want to be spoken to that way either.

You may have just read those above pointers and thought “Duh, duh and duh,” but seriously: This type of language is becoming the norm in how we interact with one another online.

If you don’t care how people perceive you online, that’s fine, but just know that if you use aggressive and commanding language, chances are you are turning people away and therefore getting the opposite effect you are hoping for.

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