We’re all guilty. At one point or other in our lives, we’ve lost the plot, spit the dummy, gone absolutely spare with rage and vented it all in an epic splurge of venom onto the internet for the entire world to see.
This is partly because having a discussion over a computer or a phone is completely different from having the same discussion face to face.
If I’m angry enough with someone to have it out with them face to face, I can use tone of voice, volume, expression and a whole bunch of other cues to send the message. And the person I’m cross with can do the same. Some people can shut down a row without even saying a word. Just a long silence and a look are enough to make the other person realise they’ve gone too far.
Long silences and looks don’t work over Facebook Messenger.
So we say things we later regret. If there’s nobody there to keep us in line, we sometimes say horrible, horrible things—things that not only hurt others, but may make them fear for their own safety, and even their lives.
We can’t just pooh-pooh that, and say, ‘I didn’t really mean it!’ You may know that, but others almost certainly don’t. They don’t necessarily know who you are, or what you’re normally like.
So how do we control our bad behaviour? It’s not always easy, but here are a few useful tricks we can use.
If it’s an actual person who’s just lost the plot momentarily, then try to bring them back. Find some part of their message you can agree with, or at least accept as valid. Tell them so. Tell them which specific part you don’t like, or disagree with. They’ll respect you more, and no matter how deeply you disagree, you’ll still be able to talk.
Write to your mother
As you write, imagine you’re writing it to your mother. Never say anything to a stranger that you wouldn’t say to her. Read the message afterward, and ask yourself honestly, ‘Could I send this to my mom?’
Now sit down and write to your actual mother. She misses you.
Keep it short (if you can)
There are two useful lengths for a Facebook comment: Two lines, or twenty. Think about what you want to say. If you can’t hold the whole thought in your head, write it out in 20 lines. If you can’t fit it into about 20 lines, create your own post out of it. Either that, or just send the part that’s most important.
Remember where you are
Most Facebook groups have thousands—or even tens of thousands—of people reading them. Don’t ever say anything in a public group that you would not shout across the main road in the middle of town during rush hour.
Pretend that your pastor is listening. Because he probably is.
Inbox Inbox Inbox
If it’s personal, keep it that way. Set up chat groups for you and your friends. Messenger, WhatsApp, WeChat… these are your friends.
If somebody’s already said exactly what you want to say, don’t post. That’s what the like button is for. If you want to thank them or add to what they’ve said, comment in a reply.
We must all play our part to reduce cyber-bullying:
• Think before you post
• Only connect with friends
• Be kind to others
• Don’t share your password
• Keep your settings private
• Don’t be hurtful towards others
Parents & Teachers
• Join Facebook
• Understand how it works
• Teach safety and responsibility
• Privacy - check their settings
• Stay silent
• Help your friend
• Report the bully
• Tell your parents
• Tell your teacher
If you’re being bullied
• Save what they say
• Unfriend that person
• Block them
• Tell a friend
• Tell your parents
• Report the person