Mindfully Engage Online
Choose your words as if you were speaking face-to-face.
The Online Atmosphere
Regardless of intention, the things that we write about ourselves or to one another have consequences and create an atmosphere. For example, when we receive a text that starts with a greeting such as, “Good morning!” or a simple “Hi, Katie,” it puts us at ease and helps us to recognize that the person who is writing to us wants to engage calmly and kindly. Contrary to this, when we receive a text and someone starts with rapid-fire questions, such as “Are you available Tuesday?” or “What does your day look like?” it puts us in a defensive and uneasy state. We must realize that we are all busy and often, this causes us to be less thoughtful about our words. Words have power; we need to mindfully consider not only what we say, but also how we say it. A powerful, yet easy habit of starting each and every message with a greeting containing two little letters, “h” and “i,” and the person’s name, alleviates setting the wrong tone online. You wouldn’t barrage a friend you come across in person with questions without greeting them first. Why do that in a text?
Social media has the ability to create an atmosphere of kindness, positivity and good energy. Unfortunately, it has also become an arena for hatred and negativity, which in turn creates bad energy. You may know a friend or two who I call the social media “Eeyore,” the person who is always posting about their mopey mood, the bad weather, the terrible traffic, or hinting vaguely at drama behind the curtain. We must be aware that every time we share something upsetting or jump on someone else’s gloomy bandwagon, we reinforce that negative energy. I suggest that we remember that this is a public forum and that our replies can just as easily uplift, spread kindness, and create positive energy. Consider these alternatives to just hitting the “like” or “sad” button:
- Send a funny joke or video.
- Write something nice to someone you know could use a boost.
- Send a kind text.
- Share a positive or inspiring quote.
- Send a beautiful scenery shot.
Post with Positive Intent
Boasting about one’s life is not posting. Presenting your life in a manner that depicts a perfect presence is not only unhealthy, it is untrue. Every person has his or her own struggles. Painting a picture of a perfect life creates an atmosphere of a distorted reality for all to see, as well as reinforces narcissistic and voyeuristic tendencies. The “selfie culture” is creating a false sense of whom we really are — flawed human beings, which is a normal state of being.
Before you post, THINK.
We have all heard the horrific stores of children being cyberbullied to an unimaginable level, causing some to go as far as taking their own lives. Because written words are so powerful and can be viewed by so many, we need to learn, now more than ever, how to carefully choose them before we press the “send” button. We can use our words and social media for good. We know how forceful even a minor negative comment can affect a child. How much of a beneficial impact would it have for a child to read about random acts of kindness posted on social media? It is apparent that children and adults use social media to seek approval and attention online using negative tactics. However, there is no reason they cannot attain this feedback through more positive means. We need to guide children and adults to write with good intent, by stepping back, being mindful, and always considering the impact of their words. We need to incorporate the necessary act of pausing, to ask ourselves these questions before we post:
- Would I say what I’ve typed face-to-face? (Kindness)
- Would this make me feel good if I received it? (Empathy)
- Is my text clear without misunderstanding? (Perception)
- Is this post a reflection of the true person I am? (Intent)
- Is this personal/private? Does it need to be shared? (Privacy)
- Am I spreading negativity? (Eeyore)
Technology and social media have the power to create a wonderful, communal world if we make a concerted effort to foster thoughtful online communication. Social media can spread kindness and positivity to unite us, or conversely, it can spread hatred and negativity to divide us. Each one of us has a civic responsibility to build a cyber community where kindness and safety are the norm. We carry the power within.